"Scathing" isn't really a strong enough word to describe the criticism that Kansas State University professor emeritus Barry Flinchbaugh and former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm heaped on Congress at the opening session of this year's Ag Media Summit in Albuquerque.
The pair, notorious from disagreement on questions of politics and ag policy, found more to agree about than to argue about when they launched a discussion on what needs to be done to pass a farm bill and to get the economy back on track.
Flinchbaugh set the stage with the forthright style that the thousands of K-State students who have occupied his classrooms for four decades would recognize instantly.
"The Blue Dog Democrats got beat, left town and turned Congress over to two groups of people, the Tea Party wingnuts on the right and the Pelosi wingnuts on the left," he said.
As a result, he said, Congress is now doing to American farmers what it has been doing to American business since 2007 – creating a paralyzing atmosphere of uncertainty.
"For years, ag has been the bright spot of the economy because it operated within the certainty of a Farm Bill that everybody would work with. That is no longer true," he said. "The last Gallup poll gave Congress a 9% approval rating. If I were a part of this Congress, I'd be too embarrassed to go home. I hope they get an earful of what they royally deserve."
He went on to praise the work of Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the ranking Republican on the Senate ag committee and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the chairman. The pair crafted, with bipartisan effort, what Flinchbaugh calls "a pretty good Farm Bill."
As a result, he said, ag leadership stands out.
"Our ag leaders make the top leaders, Boehner and Reid and Pelosi and McConnell, look like real dogs," he said. "Stabenow and Roberts operated in the classic way that shows they know how Democracy is supposed to work."
He also praised Republican Rep. Frank Lucas and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the leaders of the House Ag Committee, who also moved a bill out of committee with strong bipartisan support only to see it never move to the floor of the House for a vote.