The main advice Steve Appel has for people is to engage in the process. One person, he says, can make a difference.

He offered what he rates as one of his top achievements as an example.

In the 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union reached an agreement for the Soviets to buy certain amounts of U.S. corn and wheat annually. It increased wheat prices, benefiting many wheat farmers like Appel who had struggled with low prices for years.

But President Jimmy Carter unilaterally embargoed U.S. grain to the Soviet Union in 1980 in retaliation for the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The embargo was lifted by President Ronald Reagan in April 1981, but not before crashing prices and contributing to a severe farm crisis.

"It was a knee-buckler," Appel recalled. "Suddenly your commodity isn't worth nearly what you thought it was and it takes years to gain it back."

It took most of his profit for a number of years.

When Appel was elected Washington Farm Bureau president in 1994 he took up the issue with his newly elected U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt. He introduced a bill requiring congressional approval of such embargoes. It passed in the late 1990s.

Appel had spearheaded the issue for at least 10 years.

"It takes years to get anything like that done," he said, "but in the end we were successful. It's an example that the system can work."

-- Dan Wheat

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