Open Mic Replay - An Extensive Catalog of Our Audio Interviews

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Paul Hammes is Vice President and General Manager for Agricultural Shipping at the Union Pacific Railroad. He joined UP ten years ago in a period of merger and transition in the rail industry. Hammes previously held various trading, asset management and transportation roles with Cargill. He has served as chair of the National Grain and Feed Association's Shipper/Receiver Committee and is a trustee on the Farm Foundation Board. He discusses the current business climate for rail carriers and the relationship of the railroad to agribusiness. He also comments on the pending Water Resources Legislation..

Who would have thought that a self-made man who started as a truck driver would become one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)? Forrest Lucas, president of Lucas Oil, launched a new organization, Protect the Harvest, (www.protecttheharvest.com), to fight HSUS and others trying to negatively impact animal agriculture. Lucas is a strong voice for free enterprise and opposes government regulation including the ethanol mandate. He is an aggressive marketer, proven by the success of Lucas Oil and an investment of $120 million to put the name of his company on the Indianapolis Colts stadium for twenty years. Listen to this week's Open Mic to learn how became successful and decided to make the defeat of HSUS his legacy.

Dr. Keith Collins served in the federal government for 32 years, working with several Agriculture Secretaries as USDA's Chief Economist for the last 15 years of his career before retiring in 2008. During his tenure, federal crop insurance evolved to be the primary safety net for the majority of U.S. farmers. Collins, now a consultant for the crop insurance industry, discusses how crop insurance is an underpinning of the overall economy. He also addressed the impact of billions of dollars in crop insurance claims in 2012 and whether or not the industry can withstand similar challenges.

Congressman Mike Conaway is a Republican from a rural and agricultural district of west central Texas. He is the subcommittee chair for general farm commodities and risk management of the agriculture committee. Conaway sits just below the four principal negotiators on the conference committee for the farm, food and jobs bill that is currently being negotiated. He stated last week that he disagreed with Chairman Frank Lucas that the bill would come out of conference before Thanksgiving. "I would like for the Chairman to be right and for me to be wrong," he said on further questioning, "but I feel there are just too many areas that are unresolved to allow that." Conaway turned out to be right as many areas of the bill are still unsettled.

Congressman Steve Southerland is a Republican from Florida. He may be best known for an amendment to the 2013 House Farm Legislation that required a work component for a certain sector of recipients to continue receiving food aid. The "Southerland Amendment", upon party line passage, caused Democrat support to disintegrate and the the first defeat of farm legislation since it originated in the 1930's. Southerland talks of what he learned from the debate and the prospects for conferees, which he is one, to negotiate a merged bill that can be passed by both houses and signed by President Obama.

In the 1960's, Dr. Mary Del Chilton, a biologist, had an interest in a bacterium that would snip the genes of a tobacco plant and allow scientific manipulation or gene splicing. She was not sure it was anything that had commercial viability until CIBA-GEIGY (now Syngenta) came to see her at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was teaching. They convinced her to bring her skills to the fledgling biotechnology industry and switch from tobacco to corn. The rest is history as she was awarded the World Food Prize this year along with two other scientists who laid the groundwork for advancement in crop biotechnology. Agri-Pulse spoke with her during a news conference at the World Food Prize event as she was countering anti-biotechnology claims and discussing the unrecognized potential in this new era of genetic modification

Ray Offenheiser is President of Oxfam America, a Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on food aid to developing countries. Oxfam is a member of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and favors major reform in the food aid system, moving away from shipping grain in more costly American flag vessels to buying food near the area of famine to support the region, citing proposals offered by both Presidents Bush and Obama. Offenheiser also discusses the science, yet the wariness - within some countries - to receive genetically modified grains.

As House and Senate leaders head into a farm bill conference meeting this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar provides keen insight on the negotiations. She says the challenge is to merge the reductions in spending, contained in the House of Representatives Farm Bill, with the more moderate reductions in the Senate bill and to mediate those provisions in the final bill. She discusses the prospect of rolling the entire farm bill into a larger budget bill and how large a reduction there can be in nutrition spending without risking a presidential veto. Finally, she discusses a provision of the WRDA bill that would permanently close the Upper St. Anthony Lock on the Mississippi River to block Asian Carp from penetrating northern Minnesota rivers and lakes.

Jo Ann Emerson recently became the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives after a distinguished seventeen year career as a U.S. Representative from Missouri. She is only the fifth leader of the NRECA since it's inception. Major concerns of Rural Electric Coop's, and their members, include the need for Congressional assistance to serve low population areas and increased regulation and other mandates placed on both generating and distribution cooperatives. Still, Jo Ann Emerson believes that REC's are leading the way in increasing the mix of renewable and clean energy to make electricity. She also addressed storm damage and how a major principle of cooperatives is to help each other, even if the payment is just an IOU.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, joins us for a wide-ranging interview on Open Mic. This week, the WFP event will be held in Des Moines, Iowa with many internationally acclaimed speakers including Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Roman Catholic Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana. The WFP honors three scientists in 2013 who dedicated their careers to commercializing biotechnology in crops and addressing world hunger issues: Marc Van Montagu of Belgium,
Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States. The WFP encourages scientists and NGOs to talk about how to address crop production and distribution problems and plan for feeding nine billion people in the future, but activists are expected to protest the recognition of science-based solutions for modern agriculture. In this interview, Quinn addresses the issues head on and provides important context for the event, which was founded by Dr. Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Laureate in 1970 for his work in improved plant breeding.

Right Honorable Ambassador Mike Moore serves the New Zealand government from the embassy in Washington, D.C. He is a former Director General of the World Trade Organization, In that capacity, he initiated the Doha Round of the WTO and saw the assention of China into the trade body. He expresses regret at the inaction of the WTO but has hope it remains a means to negotiate disputes. Amb. Moore is astute and colorful in his observations of world trade and describes the ups and downs of New Zealand's agriculture. He also speculates on the prospects for the Trans Pacific Partnership talks and further trade agreements with Europe. Moore salutes and credits the U.S. government and farmers for bringing food to the world.

Recognized as one of the most influential people in bioenergy, James C. Collins, Jr. is senior vice president for DuPont, in charge of Industrial Biosciences, Performance Polymers and Packaging & Industrial Polymers businesses. He is leading the effort to bring advanced biofuels to market, especially through a new generation cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. Collins will testify this week before the Senate Agriculture Committee on the Renewable Fuel Standard and its applicability to advanced biofuel development. He also comments on DuPont-Pioneer efforts to assist corn growers to get the maximum utilization of biomass by a sustainable rotational system of removing a portion of the stover for use in making cellulosic ethanol.

With international trade negotiations offering the potential for stronger ag exports, it's important to understand some of the key differences between the U.S. and other trading partners. In this week's Open Mic, John Dardis tells how the Irish view some of the trade barriers on both sides of the Atlantic. Dardis is a fifth generation farmer, who trained as a plant breeder, and currently serves as the Agricultural Attache for the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Dardis sees Ireland's agricultural future in the amount of beef, dairy, whiskey and other high value exports the island nation can ship around the world while creating much needed jobs. He also offers perspective on biotechnology acceptance and how Ireland is trying to build their next generation of young farmers.

The Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), is ready to bring the 2013 farm bill to closure. She expressed frustration with delays in the House of Representatives and stands strongly on the side of providing food assistance to those in need. Stabenow explains the politics of the bill and how the President is monitoring the legislation. Action by the House to appoint conferees is a priority as she rejects the way Republicans are attempting to pass a nutrition bill that would reduce SNAP by $40 billion over ten years.

Agricultural Research Service Administrator Edward B. Knipling guided nearly 2,000 scientists with a focus on the Agricultural Research Service as the working arm of USDA science and an organization of national responsibility. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said it best: "Dr. Knipling retires with 46 years of service to the American people through the advancement of science.'' In a prestigious career devoted to the ARS, Knipling held positions throughout the agency, serving as ARS Administrator since 2004. In this week's Open Mic, Knipling shares many of the challenges facing the agency as it remains focused on science-based solutions to some of agriculture's biggest challenges.



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