A standing ovation greeted former Congressman Charlie Stenholm as he took the podium to speak to American Farm Bureau Federation members Monday during the 91st annual meeting of the organization. It wasn't the only standing ovation he would receive.
"Our political system today is broken because we fail to compromise," stated Stenholm. "It's been going on since Watergate but has become more severe." The problem, he said, is that if a Democrat proposes something, the Republicans will automatically oppose it, and vice versa.
"There is no better system in the world than democracy," he continued. "But it's time we decide what the people want."
Stenholm addressed a number of the issues facing the country today such as the budget and deficits. "There is a limit to how much we can borrow," he declared. "At some point, countries such as China will want their money back."
On health care, Stenholm affirmed, "doing nothing is not an option. Health insurance companies need to be reformed, especially when it comes to monopolies. (Standing ovation) Why didn't Congress deal with that? Why didn't' Congress deal with tort reform? There are too many law suits on doctors, etc."
The former Congressman said crop insurance reform is working. "If we replicated that in health care we would discover hundreds of millions of dollars of savings."
Stenholm believes there is a place for both oil and gas companies and alternative fuel sources. "I say lets develop all fuels. Let's work together to see what's in the U.S.
"Nuclear power is the answer if you are concerned about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we will find answers to how to deal with nuclear waste."
Stenholm noted "so far Congress is not meeting the challenge of developing an energy policy very well. If we don't keep it market oriented, it will fail."
Collin Peterson is doing an excellent job as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, stated Stenholm. "He really understands ag issues." Stenholm acknowledged Peterson shocked people when he announced he will soon start public hearings on the next farm bill. "Collin is foresighted and he wants to have all of agriculture prepared when debate starts."
There is no doubt there be budget cuts and agriculture will have to take it's fair share, he explained. "We are evolving into an agriculture that will soon not be subsidized. Get ready," he declared.
On immigration, Stenholm says the country can not send all undocumented workers back across the border. "That would be devastating to U.S. agriculture where 70% of the work force involved undocumented workers. He suggests all citizens be issued an ID card that can't be forged. "Let's figure that they are here, who they are and that will help control our borders."
Stenholm predicts Bill Gates will become the Norman Borlaug of the 21st Century. "Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are putting money into Africa to help farmers learn to help themselves. Eventually, they might be able to buy from us rather than us handing them money."
More research is need on the issue of climate change, believes Stenholm. He says we don't yet have the technology to deal with the issue. He predicts Congress will not pass a climate change bill this session. "It will go on being debated."
The former Congressman received another standing ovation from the packed conference hall at the end of his remarks.