Exciting Times in Washington


At the 12th Annual Ag Development Forum on Thursday during the Southern Farm Show at the State Fairgrounds, Ray Starling spoke to the meeting about  the new administration, his boss’s stand on issues, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and a few of his own observations as Tillis’ Chief of Staff:

“Yeah, it’s an exciting time to be involved in national policy discussions.  It’s an exciting time to be from North Carolina, to be a part of that conversation.  I don’ think there’s anyplace in the country that’s more dynamic right now in terms of the public policy conversations.  In fact, I heard recently that if you ranked all of the political atmospheres across all the 50 states, including the District of Columbia, from one to fifty-one, North Carolina would rank about 26th

So, what a fun place to be in public service, what an interesting time to be here, the level of public engagement obviously feels like, or seems like it’s an all-time high, and we think that’s a good thing…right? when the people are paying attention to what their government is doing.”

Now, today you talked about ‘big rocks’, and those have to be dealt with before we can deal with the ‘little rocks’.  Let’s talk a little bit about what ya’ll are seeing as ‘big rocks’.

“Yeah, great question.  The big rocks, for the capacity of the United States Senate, in particular and this is something that we’ve had to learn since we got up there…there’s only so much you can do in the Senate.  The Senate is a very different body, structured very differently than the House.  I think the old phrase, when it was conceived, is that the Senate was to be a cooling saucer, that the work of the House as to be poured into.  Sometimes that’s frustrating, people want to be more productive, get more done.   

“If we’re talking about the big rocks in the Senate, I think clearly, you’ve already seen some of those fall into place with the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, clearly we believe that tax reform, which will start in the House, but eventually come to the Senate, is going to be a big area of conversation.  And then, a duty that the Senate has, that our other Article I chamber doesn’t have, and that is this group of confirmations.  Confirming these nominees, of course all the cabinet nominees, and as of yesterday all eyes are on the United States Supreme Court, and the nominee there. 

“Those are the ‘big rocks,’ those are the things that leadership feels we’ve got to get these things done.  And I’d like to add a fourth one to that if I may, and that is this conversation about regulatory reform, and taking a look at some of these things that happened at the end of the last administration.  But, also taking a look at the entire regulatory field, and saying ‘ what can we do to create and environment where a rising tide lifts all boats’.  In other words, what can we do in regard in taking a slower approach in imposing new regulations on business, and at least a more thoughtful one, and one that does in fact consider the economic consequences.  I don’t think that’s unfair at all.”

Now, one of the things that you mentioned, that I think it’s going to take everybody to get used to, whether they’re in agriculture or not, everything that here, 13 whole days into the administration, everything is coming from the top down, instead of from the mid-point and spreading out.  And that’s something that we’re unaccustomed to.

“Yes, well, I think that maybe that’s debatable.  I think some people would tell you that they think that statement is not true, it’s been top down driven in the past, and that congress hasn’t asserted it’s voice in that conversation.  There are certainly members of congress that feel that way. 

“But, yeah, there’s an adjustment, there’s an adjustment period, what remains to be seen, is how long will that be?  When can we get past the rhetoric, when can we get past the shouting on both sides and get down to business.  And I think as Senator Tillis has been quick to say ‘how do we tell the unreasonable voices, regardless of what side they’re on, the we really need them to get to the table and help us work on ‘good’ instead of insisting and yelling for what they perceive as ‘perfect’. “

Okay, Ray, what do we need to add here?

“We need more sweet tea, we need more biscuits, and we need more cornbread in Washington D.C.”


A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.