Programs Blog News What's New RMA USDA USDA En Español Contact Us Field Offices About RMA

You are: Home / News / News Archive
 

News Archive


Contact:
John Shea, 202-690-0437

ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR BARBARA LEACH'S REMARKS
AT WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION

RMA associate administrator Barbara M. Leach

Good morning. I'm glad to see so many of you here. My story begins in Atlantic, IA, a small town in the heart of SW Iowa. Actually, at the time, we didn�t think of ourselves as small but rather, Atlantic was a big town with a winning football team, a place where people came to shop. I grew up there in a two bedroom Levitt-like house, belonged to country 4-H, and went K-12 to school in this same town.

My Dad had grown up in Alberta, Canada; he went broke farming in the first year and worked all sorts of patched-together jobs, but in the heart of the Great Depression, he hitchhiked from near Edmonton, Alberta to Des Moines, IA where his cousin found him a job on the railroad and he joined the union. In Des Moines, he met my mother, was drafted for WWII and returned to marry my mother. That's how I happened to grow up in Iowa, daughter of a railroad worker with an 8th grade education who became chief of his AFL-CIO union for IA, MO, KS and NE.

It was the sixties on the calendar but really, the culture was like in the fifties. I was engaged my whole senior year. I married a local farmer two months after high school graduation. We raised corn, beans, hogs, cattle, and I had 1300 laying hens seven of those years. In addition to having two kids and the chickens, I drove a tractor, tended our cow herd, sold certified and registered soybean seed, and I cooked four square meals a day' breakfast, dinner at noon, lunch to the field at 5 and supper whenever the men came in. We went from farming about 500 acres with his family to farming 1000 acres by ourselves with the help of the two full-time hired men who lived with us. It was a big operation in 1981. In those days, we belonged to the National Farmers Organization (NFO) and I did a lot of the organizing for my husband who was our county's NFO president.

But then there was a turning point: In 1968, Bobby Kennedy met with NFO national leaders and made promises on the Farm Bill. My husband then' now my ex, and I organized people to go to the Iowa Caucuses for Kennedy. I was elected a Caucus Delegate to the county, district and state conventions, all because of my commitment to family farmers and the Farm Bill.

Long story short - this was my beginning. Overall, I won elections' local, state and national - for about 20 years and I worked in the Iowa Caucuses every presidential cycle. For most of the eighties, I served as Vice Chair/Co-Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and also represented the Midwest on the executive committees of the DNC and the ASDC.

In the mid-70's, I started going to college at night. By 1981, I was living in Des Moines - divorced; a student still going to college at night; and a single parent of two teenage boys. I held a series of jobs' Iowa PTA Executive Director; Real Estate Broker, and, as the kids went to college, I came here (still going to college at night), first to work for the Realtors and eventually to join the Clinton Administration as Director of Intergovernmental at DOT and second term, I chose - worked - to be appointed Chief of Staff for RMA. Now I�m RMA's Associate Administrator, appointed by President Obama.

Why did I want to come back? Because after all these years and many stories, my heart and my commitment is still tied to family farmers and rural communities. I live in the city and I love living here, but I still remember how hard we worked, and that still, families are poorer in the small towns of RURAL AMERICA. I still remember that the challenges of distance make it harder to get the news, to go to school, to get broadband, to believe in the future. I still remember that farmers and ranchers have more risk and more danger than practically any other �workers� in America. And because I believe in fairness' we feed our country and the world, I want RURAL AMERICA to have both the respect and the fair return that RURAL AMERICA deserves.

Now, as RMA Associate Administrator, I have the opportunity to help our farmers and ranchers manage their risk, with the help of FCIC production and revenue insurance products. I also have the opportunity to play at least a small role in how our government,our democracy, can work as efficiently and compassionately as possible. That's what I started in politics to do and that's why I love working here at USDA. It's a chance to serve our family farmers and their rural communities.

My advice' reach for the future. Work for things you can believe in. Never say,'No, I can�t,� because together, we can succeed in the things our country needs done.

#