Daily News guest column gets national attention


By Patricia Ann Speelman - pspeelman@sidneydailynews.com



SIDNEY — A guest column by Chris Gibbs, of Maplewood, published in the Sidney Daily News, July 26, has been receiving some national attention.

The column, headlined “Local farmer calls it as he sees it,” discussed Gibbs’s contention that a $12 billion bailout to be paid to American farmers by the Trump administration is “hush money.”

In the column, Gibbs, a retired USDA administrator, wrote a riddle: “‘I slept with a billionaire because he said he loved me. I expected to make love, but in the morning I realized I was getting screwed. When I went to tell the world, I was offered cash to keep my mouth shut.’ Who am I? No, I’m not a model or someone named Stormy. I’m the American farmer.”

Reference to the riddle and Gibbs’s term, “hush money,” have been repeated in stories by online news outlets since the column was published.

The Hill, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, The Week, the Guardians of Democracy, HillReporter.com and Instafeedz.com have all posted stories and links to the Sidney Daily News website. The CBS-TV affiliate in Cleveland, Channel 19, interviewed Gibbs via Skype, Monday, July 30, and aired the piece on its 11 p.m. news broadcast that night. It is not available on the Internet. In addition, Scott Hardin, director of digital media for Aim Media, owner of the Sidney Daily News, said Tuesday that the column is “still our top story across Aim Midwest (the Ohio newspapers owned by Aim Media). So far, it’s been viewed 40,278 times.”

“We’re certainly pleasantly surprised that the story has national legs. One of the things that’s been interesting is that the majority of these outlets that have hit the story hard are left-leaning outlets. So it’s no surprise when they find something critical, they trumpet it,” Gibbs, a conservative Republican, said, Tuesday. “The way I want to use that is to tell the story about what tariffs are doing to us out here in ag country.”

The Sidney Daily News sent requests for comment to all the outlets. Most did not respond.

James Kosur, of HillReporter.com, said he has written several stories about the drop in soybean prices that tariffs have brought.

“I’ve also been doing stories about Stormy Daniels, so it was a natural” to refer to Gibbs’s column, he said by phone, Tuesday.

He found it through one of the many Twitter threads and alerts he gets. He and his partners at HillReporter.com have millions of followers and that provides links to lots of story material. Kosur, a central Illinois resident, said he has a personal reason for caring about farm tariffs, too.

“My family owns 200 acres of soybeans. I think tariffs are misguided on Trump’s part. Farmers have worked for the last five or six decades to establish global markets. That was destroyed with one stroke of the pen. It’s only going to get worse, and it won’t reverse fast. Markets will realize they can source it cheaper in other areas of the world,” Kosur said.

Gibbs, too, is concerned that once buyers find new sellers, they won’t come back to American farmers.

“For farmers that are my age and older, they should remember that in 1980, President (Jimmy) Carter embargoed American crops into the U.S.S.R. That was in response to the U.S.S.R.’s invading Afghanistan. The world looked to the U.S. and made a calculation that we were no longer a reliable supplier of agricultural commodities, and the world started looking elsewhere to grow and purchase ag products.

“The Japanese looked to Brazil and assisted Brazil with infrastructure and assisted them in creating soybean supply. Brazil now raises more soybeans than the U.S. They are our biggest competitor. If we become an unreliable supplier, our trading partners will go elsewhere,” he said.

That’s some of what he told Channel 19 anchor Lydia Espara in the Skype interview. Channel 19 Assignment Editor Brian Koster told the Sidney Daily News, Tuesday, that putting Gibbs on the air had been pitched in an editors’ meeting at the station. Someone had seen the story on The Hill’s website.

“(Gibbs) made a lot of sense. (The editors) liked the riddle,” Koster said.

Another important point Gibbs made in talking with Espara was the Trump administration’s failure to date to give farmers a concrete idea what constitutes success in the trade war.

“The administration has yet to give us a definition of what winning looks like in this trade battle,” he said. “The president can’t just say, ‘It looks great. It’s going to be great.’ I can’t go to my bank and say ‘It looks great.’ He’ll say, ‘Show me the money.’ That’s why (farmers are) afraid.”

The Maplewood grower of corn, soybeans, hay and cattle said that he’s seen some negative feedback to the column. There have been online personal attacks and posts against farm subsidies and some about manufacturing job losses.

“My responsibility is to agriculture. As long as I’ve got the microphone, that’s what I’m going to talk about,” Gibbs said. And while there have been negative posts, there have also been postive ones.

Sidney Daily News Twitter response has been copious and overwhelmingly positive. And fellow farmers have been shaking Gibbs’s hand.

“I’ve had a number of farmers … say, ‘I wish I’d written that myself,’ and ‘Thank you for saying what we’re all saying,’” he noted.

Gibbs was quick to add that he doesn’t want to “paint” all farmers as having positive reactions, but the ones who have talked with him have been positive.

“We all agreed on the moniker, ‘We want trade, not aid,’” Gibbs said. He added that the president has been critical recently of two particular areas of the world, Mexico with the free trade agreement and China.

“If you raise soybeans, your No. 1 market is China and your No. 2 market is Mexico. The administration has promoted a multipronged approach to our No. 1 and No. 2 trading partners. That’s what’s got us worried. As an ag community, I’m not willing to just hope that this all works out. Hope is not a business plan. Hope is not a marketing strategy,” Gibbs said.

He said that Janet Garrett’s campaign — she’s running for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 4th District — had asked to meet with him to discuss his column, but he declined.

“I respectfully declined on the basis that I won’t be leveraged in a political campaign. That’s not what this is about,” he said. “(The news outlets) gave me a platform to tell what’s important to agriculture. I want to use my focus, now that we’ve got attention, (to say to the president), ‘Let us know what winning looks like.’”

By Patricia Ann Speelman

pspeelman@sidneydailynews.com

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.