Open Mic Replay - An Extensive Catalog of Our Audio Interviews


John Miller
The trains are running slow in this very cold winter but the BNSF Railway plans for speeding up service and building up in the years ahead, says John Miller, Group Vice President for Agricultural Operations. He explains a number of factors slowing down shipments this winter, discusses 'grain in the box' and previews the very large capital expenditures they are making to improve and expand their hauling capabilities. Miller's past experience includes serving as president of Bartlett Grain in Kansas City.

Gregg Doud
Gregg Doud is president of the Commodity Markets Council (formerly known as the Grain Trade Council). His organization is focused on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and rules that it is considering, as well as the re-authorization process and appointing three new commissioners. Doud comes from a strong agricultural background. He served as Chief Economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and worked on the Senate Agriculture Committee staff for Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) specializing in issues relating to the CFTC. Doud questions the lack of agricultural understanding at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the range of initiatives that could redefine hedging and contracting in the United States and Europe.

Chairman Frank Lucas
"It was almost a miracle," said Congressman Frank Lucas, chair of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and chair of the House/Senate Conference Committee, regarding passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. In this week's Open MIc, Lucas details several provisions of the bill plus implementation and potential government exposure if commodity prices fall. He also responds to news media mockery of the bill over obscure provisions and discusses his political future in Oklahoma after compromising on several key provisions to gain passage of the bill.

Senator Pat Roberts
As the U.S. Senate prepares to approve a new farm bill this week, supporters and critics are still weighing in on key provisions in the 949-page package. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, understands the difficult dynamics involved with gaining approval of complex food and farm legislation, having served as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in 1996 when "Freedom to Farm" was adopted and as ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee when deliberations first started on the present bill in 2011. Even though he is pleased with changes made to enhance crop insurance, Roberts explains why he continues to have long-standing concerns about the commodity title and is likely to vote against the Agricultural Act of 2014 this week.

Harry Stine
As world leaders look for new ways to feed over nine billion people by 2050, they will need to draw on the expertise of Harry Stine, a legendary plant breeder and developer of high yielding soybeans and hybrid corn. Stine Seed was started by his father but the Iowa company focused primarily on seed cleaning until 1965 when Harry found some unusual soybean plants in a field and became interested in soybean breeding. He went on to found Stine Seed Farms by recognizing additional profit opportunities by breeding and developing higher yield lines. In 1973, he and business partners added hybrid corn to their breeding and commercialization. Stine speaks out about the current condition of agriculture and the prospects for increasing yields to meet future demand. He states his views on how technical advances in agriculture intertwine with the philosophical needs of society.

Jim Mulhern
Got dairy? Farm bill watchers are expressing optimism that a new 'deal' can be reached on dairy, but as always, the devil is in the details. Fresh off Capitol Hill Friday night - after another day of discussions about the dairy title - Agri-Pulse interviewed Jim Mulhern, the new President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. Although no formal agreement has been reached, Mulhern - who first started working on the hill in 1983 and has held numerous positions in the dairy industry - emphasizes that the conflict over dairy programs will not prevent the 2014 Farm, Food and Jobs Act from being brought to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. He expresses his desire to "call the bluff" of the Speaker of the House but realizes that political pressure on the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee won't allow that option. Mulhern also addresses "post farm bill" goals for immigration reform and fair and equitable labeling of U.S. dairy products in trade agreements with the European Union.

Tom Vilsack
Should USDA start implementing the farm bill's permanent law? U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is holding off for now, but in this week's Open Mic, he explains what could happen if Congress can't get the job done and pass a new farm bill in the near future. He also discusses the potential "unintended consequences" of including Rep. Steve King's amendment with the farm bill and whether or not you'll hear about the farm bill in President Obama's State of the Union address. In this wide-ranging interview, the former Iowa Governor also talks about SNAP funding, the beef checkoff, immigration reform, and finding a "21st Century" solution to GMO labeling.

Jonathan Schrier
With the need to feed an estimated nine billion people by 2050, the U.S. government is taking a more comprehensive approach to addressing food security issues. Jonathan Shrier, the acting Special Representative for Global Food Security and Deputy Coordinator of Diplomacy at the State Department, describes the 'Feed the Future' initiative, which involves ten agencies, led by the Agency for International Development. Shrier says one in five children in the world is "stunted" because of lack of food and discusses several of the tools, including biotechnology, which can be used to address world hunger. He also shares how U.S. farmers and agribusinesses can play a more active role in helping feed the world and build capacity in other countries.

Dr. John Boozman
Dr. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, is in his first term in the U.S. Senate following five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the Agriculture Committee and is keenly aware of the needs of Arkansas farmers who grow a wide variety of crops. Boozman addresses the long process of getting the Farm, Food and Jobs bill through Congress and delves into specifics on commodity and food and nutrition titles. He also challenges his northern counterparts in their efforts to tighten the definition of "Actively Engaged In Farming". He explains the workings of Congress, or lack thereof, in a contentious environment and the challenges it brings to producing good legislation.

Paul Hammes
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..

Forrest Lucas
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, (, 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
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.

Congressmand Steve Southerland
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.

Congressman Mike Conaway
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.

Dr. Mary Dell-Chilton
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

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