The northwest Iowan President Bush picked for a top job in the U-S-D-A refuses to talk publicly, but his friends are. Tom Dorr of Marcus has been nominated to be undersecretary of agriculture for rural development, but he’s being criticized for his comments about the economic success of three predominantly white rural counties. Keith Heffernan of Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development says it’s much ado about nothing. He says he’s seen the statements in context and can’t understand what the furor is about. He says Dorr asked about the three counties in a brainstorming session, rather than making a statement about them.Heffernan first met Dorr in the late ’70s when the two were working to convince corn growers to vote for a check-off program. He calls Dorr “bright and very innovative.”Republican farm activist Mary Boote first met Tom Dorr 20 years ago. She says her impression of Dorr hasn’t changed, someone who is bright and very ambitious. She says he’s always been out ahead on new technology issues.Some critics attack Dorr’s vision of agriculture — with farms over thousands of acres, not necessarily owned by the people who farm the land. Boote acknowledges Dorr is something of a lightning rod. Boote says running ahead of everyone else leads to criticism and she views it as a good thing.Dorr runs a three thousand-acre farming operation. The Congressional Black Caucus has urged Senators to investigate Dorr. Dorr must get the “yes” votes of a majority of U-S Senators in order to take the U-S-D-A job.
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