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Obama, EWG fund-raising and the High Cotton awards

You probably received - as I did - a lot of requests for donations during the holidays. Many came courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, but a high percentage arrived via e-mail.

One included an offer of a winter hat if you gave $25 to the Obama for America campaign, which has raised the art of Internet fundraising to a new level. (The gift was supposed to help the Democratic National Committee retire its debt.)

The most interesting appeal came from the Environmental Working Group, which has put the names of thousands of farmers and the amounts of farm program payments they've received on its Web site.

The sender, EWG President Ken Cook, said he realized many were facing difficult choices about which organizations to support so he would get to the point and give us the “top 5 reasons we're worth your investment this year.”

Those included how lean an operation the EWG is; how it gets results; how it has continued to fight for issues like federal funding for organic farmers, how its staff members take their work personally and how the EWG offers practical solutions to keep its supporters and their families healthy.

Oddly enough, the e-mail made no mention of the EWG's efforts to persuade Congress to restrict the amount of farm program payments to larger farmers, a task it's been trying to accomplish for the last two farm bills.

I could also say it made no mention of any limits on the payments its supporters could make to the EWG but that would be churlish when we're supposed to be enjoying peace on earth and good will toward men.

Speaking of Obama, it appears the reports of the demise of Tom Vilsack's candidacy to be secretary of agriculture were greatly exaggerated. As most know by now, the president-elect announced he would nominate Vilsack for the position.

Iowa farmers who worked with Vilsack while he served as governor of the state say he will make a good secretary. Certainly, Vilsack's comments that he helped struggling farmers when he was a young lawyer in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, were welcome.

The National Corn Growers Association says Vilsack will support renewable fuels and biotechnology. Organic farming and environmental groups have already criticized his stand on the latter.

Those comments from the corn growers and other Midwest-oriented groups are helping southern farmers get over the shock of having another Midwesterner for secretary and one from the same state as Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has made a career out of payment limits.

Meanwhile, I would be remiss if I missed this opportunity to congratulate the winners of the 15th annual High Cotton awards, which will be presented at the National Cotton Council's Beltwide Cotton Conferences in San Antonio Jan. 7.

This year's winners - Mike Tate of Alabama, Jason Luckey of Tennessee, Jimmy Dodson of Texas and Danny Locke of California - have a great environmental story for the Obama administration to hear.

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