Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bob Y. Sakata Interview
Narrator: Bob Y. Sakata
Interviewer: Daryl Maeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sbob-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

DM: Now, I was just looking at the list of positions that you gave to me the other day and I saw you've had an incredible number of organizations that you've been involved in.

BS: Oh, yes.

DM: But one thing that I wanted to just ask you about is that you were president of the National Sugar Beet Growers Association.

BS: Oh, yes, uh-huh.

DM: And are there any sugar beets still cultivated today in Colorado?

BS: Yes, but that has decreased. There's only, there were some twenty-six or twenty-eight mills, there's only one left in Fort Morgan, that's gone.

DM: So that's a real example of, that you saw that as an opportunity --

BS: Change.

DM: -- and then, and then the market changed?

BS: Yeah, changed. And ownership, I saw the vision of ownership changing, and then that crop moving to South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and the cane crop becoming more predominant.

DM: So I was wondering if you could tell me some, about some of the leadership roles that you played in the agricultural industry.

BS: Well, the, I guess the... I was heavily involved in, in the Soil Conservation Service, but one of the more rewarding contributions I think I made was where I was asked by President Nixon to be on the Commodity Credit Board, Department of Agriculture, and that's the board that really guides much responsibility in agriculture. And, and that was, at the time when I joined -- and that had to pass approval of Congress at that time -- but at that time, it was, Secretary Butz was the Secretary of Agriculture, he was, I think he was professor at Indiana University. Then, then after President Nixon, I was asked to serve again from President Ford, and I served about six months after that with President Carter, and finally I was relieved of that position. But I think that I probably did most for agriculture at that time, because I was, I was an advocate of the free enterprise system, and it was between Secretary Butz and I that made the trade agreement with Japan to purchase all the wheat and grain and soybeans from the United States. And it was also during that time that I was the one that advocated that the U.S., the U.S. agricultural philosophy should change, and that farmers should not depend on the agricultural program to make a living. And there's a lot of debate even today on the ag. program on subsidies. So those years that I were in there, I was in there in Washington, the history would tell you the farmers made the most money at that time. And one of the problems we had was surplus and not selling, moving all the surplus of food. So it was very simple, the U.S. government owned much of all the fabulous grain storage bins all over the United States. And I was the one that recommended to Congress that we sell those bins, but we sell them to farmers at a very low interest rate, and sell it to farmers. And then they would adjust their growing according to the way the bins look. Common sense. And that's one of the big contributions that I made.

DM: And you've also been involved in water planning, isn't that right?

BS: Oh, yes, yes. And that's the biggest challenge we face today, is water. And that is a challenge for all over the United States: shortage of water, increase in population. And society just is not sensitive enough to really come with a compromise to share that water with the metropolitan area and agriculture. But the day will come that -- I won't live long enough -- but the day would come when I would be saying, "I told you so," where water... today, you see, I could probably mention it in a simple way. Today, many of the water planners are saying there's plenty of water here. Because agriculture uses eighty-five percent, owns and uses about eighty-five percent of the water. And I followed the speaker and I said, "The previous speaker is correct, we as agriculture own eighty-five percent of the water." But I asked the audience, "Don't you all like to eat?" There was a pause. [Laughs] So really, society owns that water, but it is a big struggle at this point right now on how to conserve water. And one of the biggest, biggest problem is I can't quite find a reason for it, but the environmentalists are completely against reservoirs, where that's what we need, we need reservoirs to store the water. That'll be a fight 'til I go to the grave. [Laughs]

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.