Note: This is a cover article I wrote for Indiana Prairie Farmer, published by Farm Progress Companies, Inc., Carol Stream, IL.
Secretary Moseley Back in Clarks Hill
by Darrell Boone
The call came in February 2001. Jim Moseley, Clarks Hill, was working in one of his hog barns. Ann Venneman was calling to ask Moseley to be her deputy secretary of agriculture.
“I really wasn’t interested in going back,” said Moseley, who had worked in Washington from 89-92, first as Ag Advisor to the Administrator of EPA, then as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment.
“But I agreed to fly out and at least talk with her. She said she was trying to ‘assemble a good team, like we had under Clayton Yuetter.’ I found that compelling. I also thought I could do something good for farmers,” explains Moseley.
After weighing the decision, Moseley handed over the reins of his farming operation to his son-in-law and daughter, Brian and Jennifer Simons, and headed for the capitol.
As Deputy Secretary, he would run USDA’s mammoth day-to-day operations, while Venneman would follow President Bush’s directive to “get out there with the message.”
Moseley was sworn in on July 17.
His honeymoon was brief. On the morning of Sept.11 he had just given a speech when the attacks began. Venneman, who was seventh in line of succession to the President, was whisked away to a secret location. Moseley and key USDA personnel were sequestered at another secure site.
“Absolute fear” is how Moseley described his feelings that morning. After regaining his bearings, the first thing he did was to lead his people in prayer.
“I’ve never hesitated to let people know about my relationship with God, and that I have a ‘North Star,’” says Moseley.
The term “day-to-day operations” instantly took on a new meaning. With Venneman occupied with promoting trade, Moseley became USDA’s point man on homeland security. Now days were consumed with strategies for preventing, responding to, or recovering from endless attack scenarios.
“While we were always concerned about the welfare of consumers, I still considered my primary constituents to be farmers,” said Moseley. “A terrorist attack on milk, for example, could have devastating effects on the production system. We had to try to protect the equity interests of farmers.”
Why did he resign? Moseley simply says “In Washington, four years is a very long time, especially at this level and intensity.”
Although it was a grueling four years, Moseley has no regrets.
“Unless good people are willing to jump in and get involved, evil is sure to triumph. And it only takes a few good people to really make a difference.”
Does he feel he accomplished what he set out to do? “I feel I did a lot of things for farmers at the conceptual, policy and detail levels,” states Moseley. “I wish I could’ve done more, especially in the areas of conservation and environment, but Sept.11 took precedence. But even with that, my primary focus was protecting the interests of farmers.”
Moseley is also pleased that his platform in Washington gave him a chance to mentor and encourage young people, as others have done for him.
“I really enjoy talking to young people about values, what’s important, what life’s about,” says Moseley.
Moseley, along with his wife and youngest son returned from Washington, D.C. to the family farm ... but in a different sort of way.
“Now this is going to be a place for me to come back to—to rest, relax, spend time with family, regain my energy,” states Moseley.
For Moseley’s next project, he will spend three to six months as senior advisor to the minister of agriculture in Afghanistan. He hopes to help the country jump-start its farm economy.Moseley will also maintain his connections in Washington, which he now considers to be the center of his world.
"I feel I’ve had an exceptionally satisfying and fulfilling life,” says Moseley. “For a farm boy who grew up in Miami County, I’ve come a long way from home.”
Setting His Sights on Afghanistan
Why would Jim Moseley choose to go to Afghanistan?
“A couple of years ago, then-Afghani Irrigation Minister Nuristani stopped by my office for what I thought was going to be a brief courtesy call. The visit lasted over two hours, as he asked me question after question.
I was touched by his humility. He told me ‘We are desperate. We have nothing.’”
Since then, Mosely has been to Afghanistan numerous times.
“I feel I’ve been given a gift that has to be used,” says Moseley. “On one hand I have production experience. On the other, I’m comfortable dealing with high levels of government. I think I can work with both farmers and the central government to help bridge that gap.”
And his sites are not only set on Afghanistan. Moseley, who says he has no further ambitions for high office, has seen country after country that needs help.
“I am driven by that concept. I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I can to make a difference.”
Dignitary Returns to Family's Farm
Dad returning to the family farm after a four-year absence would throw a real wrench into many operations. That doesn’t appear likely here.
“One of the good things about going to Washington was that it forced us to pass on the farm to the next generation,” states Moseley. “That’s never an easy thing to do, but I’m glad we got it done. Jennifer and Brian were really thrown into it, but have done a wonderful job.”
When the Moseleys left home in 2001, they not only transferred the management, but also arranged a buyout of assets except land and buildings. Jim will continue to be involved in any hog expansions, and has offered to help younger son Brandon get into farming after he graduates from Purdue. Jim and Kathy will still live in the family home.
Experienced Lawnmower Driver
The operation currently includes 2500 acres of grain and produces 55-60,000 feeder pigs and 28,000 finished hogs annually, all under contracts.
So what role will Dad have in day-to-day operations now?
“I plan to mow the yard whenever I can,” smiles Moseley.
Family at the Heart of True Success
High-level government service is stressful. Add a large farming/hog operation and a family of seven kids, and you’ve got a case of "extreme juggling."
While playing with family dog Bailey in his rustic office back home, Mosely muses “The hardest part of being in D.C. was missing out on the lives of my kids.”
He continues, “There are many people who do great work in the public sector. However I’ve observed that very few of them are able to maintain a quality family life. But we’ve been able to do that because of Kathy.”
High school sweethearts, the two married in their junior year at Purdue. Moseley quickly acknowledges her contribution.
“When I was in Washington the first time, she ran the farm and raised the kids—and they all turned out good! When you have someone like that it makes you want to try to be the best you can. I could not have done the things I’ve done without her.”