“Our political system, in my humble opinion, is broken,” admitted Charlie Stenholm, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Stenholm of Texas was a member of the House Committee of Agriculture throughout his entire career, serving as the committee’s most senior Democrat for his final eight years.

He earned a reputation as a middle ground, Blue Dog Democrat, voting across party lines over 50 percent of the time.

In his address at the 91st American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting, Stenholm received three standing ovations as he dived into topics such as politics, energy, immigration, climate change, horse harvesting and health care reform:

On health care reform…

“Health care reform is absolutely necessary in order to fix the system and save Americans money. If you want to spend all your money on health care instead of investing it elsewhere, be my guest.

“Where Congress made their big mistake on health care is when they didn’t work to reduce costs. Of course, we need malpractice reform. Of course, we need to change escalating insurance policies. Something has to change. We can’t stand around and do nothing.”

On energy…

“We will never, in my lifetime or any of yours, replace natural gas. We don’t have the technology. However, I’m totally for alternatives to natural gases through supplemental resources. Eventually, our fossil fuels will run out, and we need alternatives.

“I’m an advocate for drilling and exploring what additional resources America has to offer. Doesn’t that make sense?

“I’m for utilizing wind energy. I don’t understand the folks that demand clean energy, but whine about wind turbines being built in their backyards.”

On animal agriculture critics…

“Have you all seen the movies Food, Inc., and The Inconvenient Truth? (Few hands were raised.) Shame on all of you. How can we deal with opposing arguments, if we don’t listen to them?

“I give credit to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for being incredibly good at what they do. They are giving us fights all across the country, but cheers to Ohio for getting on the offense when they came to town. The Ohio Livestock Standards Care Board proved to America that veterinarians, ranchers, local humane societies and agriculture professors are the best folks to determine proper animal care.

“The other 49 states needs to follow suit, and they needed to do it yesterday.”

On horse slaughter…

“I want to make it very clear that what you do with your horse is your business, as long as you care for it from birth until death. Those of us in the animal agriculture industry believe in the humane care of animals, end of story.

“What I don’t respect is external sources telling me what I can and can’t do with my own horse. If the horse industry chooses to stay divided, then fine. There are decisions that have to be made.

“To those that believe horses are pets, be careful what you wish for. Pets are not tax deductible.

“My message to the horse industry is clear: It’s your call, but think about the implications of your decisions. These choices will have an impact on the entire agriculture industry.”

On immigration…

“We can’t continue to close our eyes to the immigration problem we have in America. 70 percent of the workforce in the agriculture industry consists of immigrants. Sure, we can go ahead and build a 10-foot fence, but then you’re locking in millions of immigrants within our borders, too.

“I’m in favor of an identification card that can’t be forged. Let’s get our immigrants identified and in an agriculture worker system. I’m not worried about agriculture workers; I’m more concerned with identifying terrorists. ID cards would get the job done to see who is in our country and where they are going.”