There was a time when David A. Stockman was one of them--he was raised on a farm, his family grew cherries, he studied agriculture, he belonged to the Farm Bureau, he was supposed to think as they did.
Now there are some cherry farmers up in Michigan who, having helped native son Stockman get to Washington, would just as soon he got lost.
They are miffed because the Office of Management and Budget, which Stockman runs for President Reagan, rejected their proposal to allow them to hold 20 percent of this year's big tart cherry crop off the market to keep prices up.
OMB vetoed the marketing order plan this month after it had been approved by the Agriculture Department, in apparent violation of USDA's own guidelines against restricting supplies of fruits and vegetables by regulation.
Stockman signed off on his subordinates' veto of the marketing order, according to OMB spokesman Edwin L. Dale Jr., who acknowledged that his boss has roots in the orchards. But they apparently don't run as deep as his convictions.
"Our view is that we made a pro-consumer decision," Dale said.
Another OMB official added, "It is very understandable that the farmers are miffed, but we feel the decision was consistent with this administration's philosophy of stimulating competition."
Some Michigan cherry farmers agree with OMB that competitors ought to be allowed to compete, but not everyone in the orchards is buying that. And they are not forgiving Stockman.
"People are shaking their heads in dismay," said Harry Foster of the Michigan Farm Bureau, which is ordinarily a champion of competition and free-market agriculture. "We elected this guy to Congress to help us straighten out this federal mess and he has slapped us right across the bridge of the nose."
Stockman, of course, is no longer a congressman. But the Michiganders, perhaps feeling they might have an "in" as erstwhile constituents, went to OMB earlier this month to plead their case. Unsuccessfully, as it turns out.
Foster was still seething last week. He said the idea of the reserve pool of tart cherries, which go into pies and cans, was to assure there would be adequate supplies if the crop came up short next year.
Because the 1982 crop is the most abundant since 1965, Foster said, prices paid to farmers have fallen below production costs in many cases and threaten their solvency. And lower prices to farmers will not mean that processors pass on the savings to consumers, he argued.
The tart cherry is important to Michigan farmers, who are far and away the nation's leading producers. They and other cherry producers in Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia have operated under a federal marketing order for 12 years.
Nobody was complaining much, if at all, about the cherry marketing order until the Reagan administration took office. After Vice President Bush's regulatory review task force took a look at fruit and vegetable marketing orders last year, they became more controversial.
There are different types of orders, covering almost 50 different farm commodities, but all are generally aimed at regulating the flow of products to market. Defenders say the orders assure supplies; critics say they are another name for price-fixing.
After the Bush review, Agriculture Secretary John R. Block drew up new guidelines for marketing orders. One of his stipulations was that they should not be used to keep farm produce off the market.
Notwithstanding the new guidelines, USDA approved the cherry growers' request that they be allowed to keep a portion of this year's crop off the market for later resale. Then it ran into trouble at OMB, which reviews nearly all regulations. OMB told USDA to back off.
"For OMB to apply classical economics to us doesn't add up. It only satisfies someone's quest for power. We couldn't believe they could be so arbitrary and so arrogant about it," Foster said.
"We concluded they didn't know the difference between a cherry and a bale of hay. What impressed us was that they don't know what they are doing. . . . Dave Stockman hasn't heard the last of it yet from us and others who have worked on marketing orders."
Life is obviously not, contrary to the adage, just a bowl of cherries.