If Donald Trump wants to usher in a new era in Washington, drain the swamp of insider elites, limit the federal government, and become a hero to conservatives all in one bold, swift move, he should choose Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. (A, 92%) as the next secretary of agriculture. Huelskamp was an outsider before it was cool to be anti-establishment, and he remained an outsider until the bitter end when he was defeated by Republican lobbyists for taking a principled stand on the role of the federal government in regulating and subsidizing the agriculture sector.
Forgotten amidst the more exciting departments, such as Defense, Justice, and State, the Department of Agriculture is one of the fastest growing bureaucracies, and is a poster child for unconstitutional, officious, wasteful, and counterproductive federal interventions. Even though the Constitution does not grant the government authority to subsidize food and farming programs, this bourgeoning bureaucracy employs roughly 90,000 people and its total cost tops $150 billion a year between its operations and programs. If conservatives have any hopes of shrinking the size of the federal government, empowering state governments to prioritize their unique rural and urban needs, shrink dependency, defang the lobbyists and balance the budget, the Department of Agriculture and its long tentacles must be diminished. There is literally nobody better for the job than Tim Huelskamp.
Despite representing the top agriculture district in the country, Huelskamp chose to be a statesman. Instead of pandering to special interests and clamoring for handouts, he promoted rugged individualism. In fact, Huelskamp was one of only 12 Republicans to vote against the bloated July 2013 farm bill, which enshrined Obama’s massive increase in food stamp spending and expanded federal intervention in agriculture.
Huelskamp could have easily taken the wide road and promoted other aspects of conservatism while continuing to support the special interest gravy train and ingratiate himself to local special interests — the same as almost every other Republican who represents a similar district. Yet, he chose the tougher, narrow path — the only path that will deliver us from this failed system and break the back of those dreaded globalist special interests. He preached a message of opportunity for all but favoritism for none. He conveyed to local special interests that he would get the feds out of agriculture so that they won’t overly tax or regulate farming, but will not subsidize them with Stalinist price fixing and “5-year plans” at the federal level. He promoted a message of devolving power and revenue back to the states to better deal with local issues, predicated on the truism that a centralized government big enough to give you everything is indeed a government big enough to take everything from you.
Because of his penchant to fight for conservative principles and defy the K Street agriculture parasites, Huelskamp was removed by leadership from the Budget and Agriculture committees in late 2012. Huelskamp was the first House member to publicly call for John Boehner to step down. Tim Huelskamp was Donald Trump before Trump burst onto the national scene; he was an outsider before it was cool to be an outsider … and he actually paid a price for it. He was defeated by the lobbyists who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lying about his record and painting his straw-man Chamber of Commerce opponent as a rock-ribbed conservative.
Let’s face it: we have a red state dependency problem fostered by the lobbyists and the federal government just as much as the urban areas. This is quintessentially embodied through the Department of Agriculture, which is home to both food and nutrition welfare and farm subsidies that are spiraling out of control, raising the cost of the food and fuel, crushing state governments, and creating a regulatory nightmare. Huelskamp, a farmer himself, with a Ph.D. in agricultural policy, and with an impeccable record of standing up to those who game the system, is the perfect messenger for cleaning the swamp and empowering the states. He authored a lengthy thesis detailing ways in which agricultural policy could be reformed to better reflect conservative principles. He authored a comprehensive Food Stamp reform bill to limit spending and give control of the program to the states.
Huelskamp is a leader who could stand up to the lobbyists and inform the rent-seekers in government that a federal government big enough to provide every child in every state with [lousy] lunches and every farm with subsidies is a government big enough to regulate the puddles in the fields and the size of hen houses. If a department such as the USDA cannot be shrunk, then there is never any hope of limiting the reach and scope of the federal government. That is why Tim Huelskamp is needed to drain the swamp like a gallon of pure DEET on a swarm of mosquitoes.
And as an added benefit to devolving power to the states, we can make school lunches great again.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.