By Alan Guebert
Special to the Farm Forum
The chairman gaveled the Ag Committee to order.
“We’re here today,” he announced in his best radio voice, “to rapidly confirm our President’s nominee for secretary of agriculture. He is, like most us, self-made, rich, manly —”
“Mr. Chairman!” interrupted a female voice from the far side of the horseshoe-shaped dais. “What are you talking —”
The sharp rap of the chairman’s gavel shattered the interruption.
“Order!” thundered the chair. “I have the floor! What’s more, I have my rules and my facts and we will follow both as long as I am chairman!” Another rap from the gavel seemed to silence the whole world.
“Now,” continued the still angry chairman, “I ask the gentle lady from the great state of Wherever to cork it unless she and her members want to do right now what agriculture’s real friends came here to do later: approve this candidate and save us valuable time and her another Valium!”
A low murmur began to rise in the packed hearing room. It was frozen in its tracks, however, with a climate-changing stare from the chairman.
“Mr. Sunny,” the chair called out, “if you are ready, the committee will now hear why we will approve your nomination.”
Mr. Sunny was ready. He was no stranger to public testimony, having served two terms as the Republicratic governor of one of the nation’s bigger cotton, poultry, and football states. So, on cue, he leaned forward.
“Mr. Chairman,” he began, “Ranking member, committee members, and fellow cogs in the global agriculture supply chain. I begin by humbly and modestly noting that if one can run a tractor, a chicken barn, and an off-shore, derivatives-based futures trading firm, he can certainly run the United States Department of Big Agriculture.”
He paused to look up and quickly eyeball each committee member before adding, “I am that one.”
The chairman smiled. His boy had made a great start, so his mind sped back to a quail-hunting trip he and Sunny had enjoyed the weekend before.
“… And, in closing,” said Sunny, firing a wake-up shot to the chair, “my experience in the big-dog-eat-big-dog world of global grain and fertilizer merchandising affirms my bona fides to run USDA and, ha ha, even the Humane Society — if any of you folks ever need a tiny favor.”
A lame silence followed the lame joke; the chairman coughed to fill it.
“Mr. Sunny,” he asked, “does this committee have your assurance that any former or future dealings with agribusiness will have no influence on any decision you make as our next secretary of agriculture?”
Sunny and the chair had rehearsed this question while hunting, so the answer was still clear in his mind. “Not just my word, Mr. Chairman,” Sunny said, “but my solemn word.” His voice cracked on “solemn.”
“So, there are no free suitcases in your closet and no free football tickets in your pocket?” asked the chair in an obscure reference to the last USDA chief, a Demopublican, from a grits-and-gravy state.
A tight-lipped Sunny shook his pink, hound dog jowls right to left before announcing: “No, sir.”
“Well, then,” said the chairman as he grabbed his ruling gavel, “having been assured this nominee can ably run our beloved Department of Big Agriculture, I move that we declare, by acclamation, Mr. Sunny be recommended for full confirmation.”
Dozens of voices suddenly screamed “Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman!” Not one, however, was louder than the chair’s that shouted, “All in favor say ‘Aye!’”
A loud crack of the gavel followed and then: “The ‘Ayes’ have it!”
And they did.
Later, in his small, hideaway office, the chairman handed Sunny a glass half-full of brown liquid, then poured himself one. Each took a small sip and smiled.
“Well,” said Sunny, “you did it.”
“All I did was speed up the process,” the chair correctly observed, “you were a shoo-in.” He paused, then asked: “You’re not going to disappoint me, are you?”
Sunny looked into his glass for the right answer. A few seconds later he shot a sly grin toward the chairman and crooned, “I got you, babe.”
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