Farming Klan Style

From Holden:

If Bush is playing patty-cake with bigots, then it must be Black History Month. Today we learn he has renominated a racist crook to a key Agriculture position.

The president has once again submitted [Thomas] Dorr’s name for the post of undersecretary of rural development in the Department of Agriculture, even though Senate Democrats blocked Dorr from the same post during Bush’s first term.

The nomination promises to reignite a dispute between Iowa’s two senators over Dorr’s qualifications and may trigger another testy confirmation process.

Dorr, 58, a farmer from Marcus, Iowa, is a controversial choice to oversee rural development, in part because he has touted the virtues of large-scale agriculture and suggested that several Iowa counties had prospered because most of the residents are white.

Dorr was also accused of supplying false information to the government to skirt limits on subsidy payments for his farm, a charge that Dorr denied, though he refunded the government $34,000. Payment limits on farm subsidies are a crucial component of the Bush administration’s proposed 2006 agriculture budget, released Monday.


Dorr was named to the job via a recess appointment in 2002. Since he was forced out in 2003, he has served as a $151,000-a-year senior adviser to the agriculture secretary.

Critics of Dorr said they were stunned that the administration was pushing him for the job again.

“I absolutely see no qualifications in his background for this job,” said George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and the president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “I never did. I can’t imagine why this Senate should put up with this.

“It’s clear that he intended to avoid payment limitations, and now that’s part of the new budget, to crack down on payments that farmers should get,” Naylor said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who led the initial fight against Dorr, said it was difficult to block the appointment of an Iowan to such a high-level agriculture position. But he said the problems in Dorr’s record were “too great to be ignored.”

“Examples of his actions and character–ranging from misrepresenting his farming operations in the course of receiving farm payments to disparaging comments about religious and ethnic diversity to insulting remarks about low-income rural Americans–are beneath the position of undersecretary of rural development,” Harkin said in a written statement.


Dorr’s problems date to a 1998 article in The New York Times in which he embraced the advantages of technology on his farm and waxed eloquent about his vision of running a 225,000-acre farm with sophisticated computers, an idea that is anathema to operators of small family farms being squeezed by consolidation in agriculture.

A year later, Dorr said three Iowa counties had prospered because of their lack of diversity. “They’re very diverse in their economic growth, but they’re very focused, uh, have been very non-diverse in their ethnic background and their religious background, and there’s something there that has enabled them to succeed and to succeed very well,” Dorr said, in comments first reported in The Des Moines Register.