Senate Confirms Ex-Rep. Glickman as Agriculture Chief
By Guy Gugliotta
The Senate confirmed Dan Glickman as the new secretary of agriculture yesterday, filling a three-month vacancy in an agency targeted for extensive budget cuts even as it prepares to negotiate a new farm bill.
The Senate voted 94 to 0 to confirm Glickman, 50, a former House member from Wichita, Kan., who was defeated for reelection last November. Glickman, who later took the oath of office, succeeded Mike Espy, who resigned at the end of 1994 because of an investigation into charges he accepted favors from agribusiness companies and used his travel privileges improperly.
Glickman's confirmation was held up for three months while investigators reviewed his credit card expenses, District parking tickets and overdrafts at the now-defunct House Bank.
Senators from the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry discussed these and other matters with Glickman during an extensive confirmation hearing March 21. The panel confirmed him unanimously, setting the stage for yesterday's vote.
Glickman will take over USDA just as debate on a new farm bill begins in earnest. The bill, produced every five years, describes the crop subsidy, research, trade, nutrition and environmental programs that affect the lives of the nation's 2 million farmers.
The House has passed legislation to cut an estimated $20 billion in USDA spending by limiting eligibility for food stamps, but money and how to save it remains at the center of the farm bill debate.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) has said agriculture spending may have to shrink $35 billion to $50 billion over the next five years. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) has proposed $15 billion in savings through gradual reduction of crop subsidy levels and elimination of an export subsidy program.
Attempts to engage the Clinton administration in a debate about these figures have foundered so far, however, because President Clinton has proposed neither a farm bill nor guidelines on how one might be written. Glickman said a Clinton proposal should be ready by the end of April.
In the interim, Glickman stood firm on the administration's current budget proposal, which suggests $1.5 billion in agriculture cuts over five years. This, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Minority Member Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) remarked during Glickman's confirmation hearing, is a "big, big spread" when matched up against the Domenici figures.
Glickman replied that "my fear" is that any cuts beyond $1.5 billion "will have a marked effect on land prices and farm program stability. . . . Quite frankly, I think we would be disturbing that stability if we made significant further cuts."
© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company