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Minnesota has high-ranking ag officials

Minnesotans have been national and international leaders and contributors since before Minnesota was an actual state. I knew that two of the United States’ Vice Presidents, Hubert H. Humphrey and Walter Mondale, were from Minnesota, but I didn’t know that a Minnesotan once served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

That was until Sunday, when the passing of Bob Bergland was announced. I started to do a little research and Minnesota actually had another one of its own, Orville Freeman, serve too, he under President John F. Kennedy.

I couldn’t recall of ever hearing about Bob Bergland so I read several articles about him, with the most detailed one from the Star Tribune. Bergland was a native of Roseau, which is nestled on the Canadian border in Northwestern Minnesota. He studied agriculture at the University of Minnesota in a two year program.

Bergland was a wheat farmer in Roseau County before his political career took off. He worked in USDA for Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. In 1970, he was elected to his first of four terms in Congress as the District 7 Representative from Minnesota, a position that Collin Peterson currently holds.

In Congress, he served on the House Committee on Agriculture’s subcommittees for Conservation and Credit, and Livestock, Grains, Dairy, and Poultry. From January 23, 1977, to January 20, 1981, Bergland served as the United State Secretary of Agriculture under someone else with agricultural ties, President Jimmy Carter.

Another event that I didn’t know occurred was a failed nationwide farm strike. Hundreds of farmers invaded the nation’s capital on tractors, camper vans and pickup trucks in February 1978 and Bergland had to carefully leave the capital to evade angry farmers.

I had never heard of the U.S. grain embargo that President Carter ordered against the Soviet Union in 1980. It was a very unpopular policy and Secretary Bergland was tasked to the Midwest during that 1980 campaign year to try to calm angry farmers.

Overall, the consensus was that Bob Bergland was a fair and highly regarded Secretary of Agriculture. After serving, he eventually moved back to Roseau and that is where he resided until he passed.

It’s very impressive to learn about the contributions that Minnesotans have had serving as high ranking agricultural officials.

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