Flinchbaugh Leaves an Unparalleled Ag Policy Legacy

November 5, 2020

U.S. agriculture and, in fact, those who work the land around the world, lost a champion with the passing Monday (Nov. 2) of Barry Flinchbaugh.

Formally, Flinchbaugh was a highly regarded ag economist – a professor emeritus in the agricultural economics department of Kansas State University, a school where he served for nearly 50 years. But he also was a force of nature in farm policy circles, bearing a profile among industry and political leaders that was considerably bigger than his somewhat diminutive frame.

A leading expert on agricultural policy and agricultural economics, Flinchbaugh was a top adviser to politicians of both major political parties for more than four decades. He counselled secretaries of agriculture, chairs of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture committees, and numerous senators and state governors. He was involved to some degree in every U.S. farm bill written since 1968, and served on many national boards, advisory groups and task forces, providing input on domestic food and agricultural policy.

A more full account of Flinchbaugh’s illustrious career can be found HERE on the Kansas State website.

We’re using this space today to pay homage to his work done on our behalf. He was a founder and steering committee member of the 25x’25 Alliance, a farmer-driven initiative promoting the role of renewable energy – biomass and biofuels, geothermal energy, solar power, wind energy and hydropower -generated by our farms, ranches and rural areas.

Calling Flinchbaugh “a longtime friend and colleague,” SfL President Ernie Shea cited the educator’s “instrumental role in crafting the strategies we used to build multi-stakeholder support for our vision, including SfL. His analysis of the political landscape we navigated through was invaluable.”

Read Smith, a Washington state grain farmer and a longtime Co-Chair of 25x’25, said, “Barry’s counsel was always grounded, enthusiastic and sometimes impatient, educating agricultural leaders in political reality. Barry, while chomping his unlit cigars, brought to mind the old television commercials of former investment firm EF Hutton: ‘When he talked, people listened.’

“We, the leadership of 25x’25 and SFL, will carry with us forever Barry’s humorous anecdotes, dry wit and polished, insightful analysis of a huge variety of subjects,” Smith said.

AG Kawamura, an SfL Co-Chair who served with Flinchbaugh on the original 25x’25 Steering Committee when the alliance was founded 15 years ago, said the renowned ag economist “educated and enlightened generations of students and audiences as one of our nation’s premier ‘wise old owls’ of agriculture. His no-nonsense observations on the future of farming were delivered with a straightforward wit and clarity that we will sorely miss.”

Another early 25x’25 Steering Committee member, Don Villwock, who retired as president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, called Flinchbaugh “an inspirational leader [who] changed all of our lives. He was able to tip toe through the political giants’ mine fields like no other. He had the respect of leaders on both sides of the aisle. We all lost a great friend and mentor.”

Len Bull, a Professor Emeritus in Animal Science at North Carolina State University, where he was co-director of the school’s Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center, also served with Flinchbaugh while advancing the 25x’25 goal. He said Flinchbaugh’s passing is marked with “a sense of great loss of one of the true commonsense leaders in our world. He was one of those folks who told it like he saw it and did so with a style that was always respected, regardless if you agreed or not.”

“Agriculture lost a wonderful friend and teacher,” said Ohio farmer Bill Richards, another early member of the 25x’25 Steering Committee. Richards said that as an economist involved in a number of agricultural initiatives, Flinchbaugh was a champion of the working farmer and had a “great vision of the future.” The economist was “well respected by any who came in contact with him,” Richards added, noting that he was “really torn” over the loss of a good friend.

Academics and political leaders alike offered their respects to the veteran economist.

Kansas State University President Richard Myers. “His expertise and vast contributions to the university, the state and agricultural economics will have a lasting impact on the world for years to come through those whom he taught and counseled.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said Flinchbaugh “helped shape agriculture policy for more than a half-century” and “leaves behind a legacy as a Kansan who improved the livelihoods of Kansas farmers, ranchers, producers – and agriculture workers across the nation.”

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who has chaired both the House and Senate Ag Committees over his nearly 30 years in Congress and worked closely with Flinchbaugh on farm bill legislation, wrote his condolences on Twitter. The veteran congressman called the economist “nothing short of a legend in his field. His expertise made him one of the most coveted and trusted advisers for agricultural policy for decades. I will not only miss his guidance, but I will also miss his friendship, wit and humor.”

We at SfL will cherish our memories of Flinchbaugh, his sharp sense of humor, his often-gruff exterior that did little to hide his sharp sense of humor, and his bountiful intellect and insights into how policy is made. He will be missed.

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