Of course, no one thought it would be any different, but Bob Bergland, the agriculture secretary who used to hand-milk 10 cows a day, showed again yesterday that he can be as strong-willed as the next farm boy.
With hundreds of angry members of the American Agriculture Movement in town this week protesting low farm prices, Bergland is staying in his furrow: farmers aren't as bad off as the protesters say.
Much to the hooting displeasure of AAM members, Bergland spent 3 1/2 hours repeating his message to the House Agriculture Committee, some of whose members gave the secretary a verbal tanning.
This was the day when Bergland would look his constituency -- farmers and legislators -- in the eye in a formal setting and talk about the Carter administration's farm policy.
The secretary didn't blink. He reeled off yards of statistics showing how well off the American farmer is these days, how his income is up, his production is up and government is concerned about him.
Earlier, over breakfast with reporters, Bergland made it clear that the administration is in no mood to change its policy because of this week's tractorcade.
Farm protests, he said, come about every 10 years in this country, and he doesn't accept the idea that America's farmers are as unhappy as the AAM delegations are trying to tell the world this week.
Bergland's historical perspective notwithstanding, he went to Capitol Hill prepared for a lack of understanding. Police kept a tight rein on farmers' movements around the hearing room, and Bergland was escorted around by departmental security agents.
Farmers still were angry over Bergland's televised remarks about "greed," and so were some committee members, who seemed to take it personally.
Bergland's comments didn't escape White House attention, either. He got two calls, one from press secretary Jody Powell and another from presidential aide Greg Schneiders, suggesting that he do a little more to accentuate the positive.
He did, talking at length about a farm economic outlook that has some problems, but which he also said he thinks is generally favorable for farmers this year -- favorable enough that government should do no more tinkering with price-support programs or production controls.
Helped along by a hearing room jammed with AAM members, a number of the committee members demanded that Bergland apologize for the "greed" remark.
Most notably, Rep. Richard M. Nolan (D-Minn.), from Bergland's home state, drew huzzahs from the crowd when he said the secretary owed an apology if he had been quoted correctly.
"Have him stand up and do it now!" shouted a farmer in the audience. Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), the committee chairman, gaveled for order and promised to bounce any other disturbers of committee solemnity.
Bergland neither stood up nor apologize. He held his ground, repeating that he had said "some" farmers are in trouble -- big economic trouble -- and that there's "a little greed in all of us."
"You know they wouldn't go into farming if they were greedy," Nolan countered. "It is not greedy for a farmer to plead for a return of his cost of production."
Others joined in the parade of zap-Bergland questioners, but it wasn't until Rep. Berkley W. Bedell (D-Iowa) said some of his colleagues were "overly insensitive" that Bergland backed down a bit.
"I would apologize to anyone who took my remarks as an affront," Bergland said. "No such affront was intended."
Rep. Floyd J. Fithian (D-Ind.) added to Bedell's comments by alluding to unidentified committee members who "stood ready to play to the galleries."
Bergland, a former congressman and member of the committee, didn't have to be told. Throughout the hearing, AAM members cheered interrogators at all the right points and oohed and aahed when Bergland found himself on the spot.
One of the little ironies in this protest by farmers who say they are here to help save the "family farm" is that Bergland has traveled something similar to the same road.
He paid $100 an acre for his 600-acre spread in Minnesota, and now could sell it for $800 an acre. He can grow larger, through a handsome line of credit, but his young son-in-law, like other aspiring farmers, can't get his own place today because of the costs.
And 20 years ago, when Bergland and other Minnesota farmers were upset with a Republican farm policy in Washington, they protested publicly and then voted heavily for Democrats.