WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 -- President Clinton announced Wednesday he was tapping outgoing Rep. Dan Glickman, D-Kan., to be secretary of Agriculture with a mandate to continue reform efforts at the massive department. At a Rose Garden ceremony to unveil the expected appointment, Clinton said he was sure Glickman was 'exactly the right person' for the job. 'I've told Dan that I expect him to continue being a vocal advocate of the interests of American agriculture and to carry on the ground- breaking work done by Secretary Mike Espy during the last two years,' the president said. 'I know Dan Glickman will meet this challenge. He has always been more interested in solving problems for people than scoring political points.' In announcing the appointment, which requires Senate confirmation, Clinton effusively praised the work of Espy, the former congressman from Mississippi who resigned in the face of an independent counsel's ethics investigation. With Espy at his side, Clinton in particular lauded his efforts to expand worldwide trading opportunities and orchestrate a sweeping reorganization of the department that has included the closing of hundreds of offices nationwide. In the face of GOP leadership of Congress for the first time in 40 years and promised budget-cutting efforts that will likely hit some of Agriculture's massive subsidy programs, Glickman indicated some flexibility, saying it may be necessary 'to rethink fundamental tenants' of some USDA programs. 'Agriculture is not and should not be immune to change,' Glickman said in noting that Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., incoming chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, already was 'asking good questions about the next farm bill.'
Reaction from farm organizations was generally positive as word of the appointment leaked out, including from representatives of the American Farm Bureau, the National Farmers Organization, and even one of the runners-up for the job, outgoing Rep. Jill Long, D-Ind., also defeated in November. 'The president made a good choice and I know that a result of his decision will be an Agriculture Department that runs efficiently and effectively as we move forward on the many issues that the new secretary will need to address,' Long said. Farm groups, women's groups and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards had written to the White House pushing Long for the job. But Clinton, while grappling with the desire to appoint more women to high-ranking administration jobs in the face of several key defections, opted for Glickman's greater experience in Congress and on agricultural committees that will next year draft the Farm Bill, which is rewritten every five years and sets basic federal agriculture policy. 'His knowledge, experience, his understanding of the needs of the American farmer make him exactly the right person to be secretary of Agriculture in 1995, when we will be writing the next farm bill,' he said. Glickman played a key role in the passage of four bills extending the $10 billion support program for the nation's agriculture industry. In next year's debate, some long-standing issues -- including subsidies and set-aside programs -- will face renewed opposition as Republicans take control of Congress. Glickman, the choice of White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, carried at least one liability, however, in that he opposed the GATT world trade accord. In leaving the Rose Garden, Clinton joked he was getting Glickman away from reporters 'just in time' when a question was asked about GATT. But Leland Swenson, president of the National Farmers Union, supported the nomination and cited Glickman's no vote on GATT, calling him an 'independent decision-maker' in the coming year's debate over farm legislation that 'could boost or bust the family farm system of agriculture in this country.' Reaction was generally favorable from Capitol Hill also, with support announced by Sen. Jim Exon, D-Neb., Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., and others. Glickman, 50, spent 18 years in Congress representing Wichita and South Central Kansas and was defeated for re-election in November by Republican Todd Tiahrt. A graduate of the University of Michigan and George Washington University Law School, he worked briefly for the Securities and Exchange Commission and in a private legal practice. While in Congress, Glickman served on the House Rural Health Care Coalition, the Agriculture Committee, Judiciary Committee; Science, Space and Technology Committee; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. His most intensive experience with the U.S. farm community, however, came in his role as chairman of the Agriculture Committee's wheat, soybeans and feed grains subcommittee -- a crucial policy-making body for Midwestern grain farmers and for livestock producers nationwide. Noting that Glickman routinely wears a sunflower on his lapel 'to remind him where he's from,' Clinton said he wanted America's farmers to continue to 'consider the Department of Agriculture a friend and not a problem in their efforts to produce food for the United States and for the world.' 'It will be our goal to continue that,' he said.