WASHINGTON - July 7 - Veteran farm journalist Forrest Laws, executive editor for Farm Presses, which publishes Delta Farm Press Magazine, an influential agriculture publication in the South, and Professor Barry Flinchbaugh of Kansas State University, one of the most renowned agricultural economists and policy educators in the nation, have agreed to serve as moderators should former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest accept a challenge from EWG president Ken Cook for a series of face-to-face debates on agriculture policy, subsidies and the next farm bill over the coming year.
Laws, a frequent critic of the Environmental Working Group's research and farm subsidy database and the publicity it has attracted, "spent 10 years with a major metropolitan daily newspaper, serving as business editor and assistant city editor. Since joining Farm Press 20 years ago, he was written extensively about all phases of production agriculture, marketing, and legislative/regulatory issues" (Delta Farm Press website).
Flinchbaugh, whose vast knowledge of farm policy, candor and sense of humor have made him one of the most sought after speakers in agriculture, is professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. He is regarded as one of the principal architects of the 1996 "Freedom to Farm" law. "During his career at K-State he has served as extension state leader for agricultural economics, legislative liaison, special assistant to the president and member of the Administrative Council. He has also served as the chairman of the Commission on 21st Century Production Agriculture and as host and leader for the People-to-People exchange program, visiting countries in Europe and the Soviet Union and advising them on agricultural economic policy" (KSU website).
Laws would moderate a debate at an appropriate venue in the South, and Professor Flinchbaugh would assume the duty at a comparable event in Kansas. Sonja Hillgren, editor of Farm Journal, has agreed to moderate a kick-off session in Washington, D.C.
"Forrest Laws and Barry Flinchbaugh know agriculture policy inside-out, and they know how to play hardball when it comes to farm programs and politics," said EWG's Cook. "You couldn't ask for two better moderators for the series of debates I've proposed to Mr. Combest about the future of ag policy, including the 2007 farm bill."
Read the letter to Combest here.