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John Shea, 202-690-0437


RMA associate administrator Barbara M. Leach

My Dad had grown up in Alberta, Canada; he went broke farming in the first year and worked all sorts of patched-together jobs, but in the heart of the Great Depression, he hitchhiked from near Edmonton, Alberta to Des Moines, IA where his cousin found him a job on the railroad and he joined the union. In Des Moines, he met my mother, was drafted for WWII and returned to marry my mother. That's how I happened to grow up in Iowa, daughter of a railroad worker with an 8th grade education who became chief of his AFL-CIO union for IA, MO, KS and NE.

It was the sixties on the calendar but really, the culture was like in the fifties. I was engaged my whole senior year. I married a local farmer two months after high school graduation. We raised corn, beans, hogs, cattle, and I had 1300 laying hens seven of those years. In addition to having two kids and the chickens, I drove a tractor, tended our cow herd, sold certified and registered soybean seed, and I cooked four square meals a day' breakfast, dinner at noon, lunch to the field at 5 and supper whenever the men came in. We went from farming about 500 acres with his family to farming 1000 acres by ourselves with the help of the two full-time hired men who lived with us. It was a big operation in 1981. In those days, we belonged to the National Farmers Organization (NFO) and I did a lot of the organizing for my husband who was our county's NFO president.

But then there was a turning point: In 1968, Bobby Kennedy met with NFO national leaders and made promises on the Farm Bill. My husband then' now my ex, and I organized people to go to the Iowa Caucuses for Kennedy. I was elected a Caucus Delegate to the county, district and state conventions, all because of my commitment to family farmers and the Farm Bill.

Long story short - this was my beginning. Overall, I won elections' local, state and national - for about 20 years and I worked in the Iowa Caucuses every presidential cycle. For most of the eighties, I served as Vice Chair/Co-Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and also represented the Midwest on the executive committees of the DNC and the ASDC.

In the mid-70's, I started going to college at night. By 1981, I was living in Des Moines - divorced; a student still going to college at night; and a single parent of two teenage boys. I held a series of jobs' Iowa PTA Executive Director; Real Estate Broker, and, as the kids went to college, I came here (still going to college at night), first to work for the Realtors and eventually to join the Clinton Administration as Director of Intergovernmental at DOT and second term, I chose - worked - to be appointed Chief of Staff for RMA. Now I?m RMA's Associate Administrator, appointed by President Obama.

Why did I want to come back? Because after all these years and many stories, my heart and my commitment is still tied to family farmers and rural communities. I live in the city and I love living here, but I still remember how hard we worked, and that still, families are poorer in the small towns of RURAL AMERICA. I still remember that the challenges of distance make it harder to get the news, to go to school, to get broadband, to believe in the future. I still remember that farmers and ranchers have more risk and more danger than practically any other ?workers? in America. And because I believe in fairness' we feed our country and the world, I want RURAL AMERICA to have both the respect and the fair return that RURAL AMERICA deserves.

Now, as RMA Associate Administrator, I have the opportunity to help our farmers and ranchers manage their risk, with the help of FCIC production and revenue insurance products. I also have the opportunity to play at least a small role in how our government,our democracy, can work as efficiently and compassionately as possible. That's what I started in politics to do and that's why I love working here at USDA. It's a chance to serve our family farmers and their rural communities.

My advice' reach for the future. Work for things you can believe in. Never say,'No, I can?t,? because together, we can succeed in the things our country needs done.