"I see we'll probably have to clarify some misinterpretations of my position," he said. "I'm not for getting rid of the Department of Agriculture. We can get that one out of the way."
But at a press conference after the event, Paul said that he may well have once called for eliminating the department in charge of regulating most of the nation's food production -- but, honestly, who can be expected to remember something like that?
"I don't think I've ever said that I was for getting rid of the Department of Agriculture and if I did say that, that's not my position," Paul said. "But I don't think I've ever said that."
Paul explained that with his long history of taking controversial positions, it's hard to keep track of which arms of the government he's called for eliminating and when.
"It's always funny because I've been in public life and not been afraid to speak my mind for probably twenty-some-odd years," Paul said in response to a reporter's question about his position on the Agriculture Department. "And so people always say, you know, 'Did you say this?' And it's like, 'Well, I don't know, it's been 20 years of me popping off and saying what I thought.'"
Of course, the problem with "popping off" with calls for scrapping the department that oversees the nation's vast swaths of farmland and the billions of dollars they produce is that people tend to write it down. And so it has been with Paul's call for eliminating the Department of Agriculture. Here's what the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote about Paul's position on the department way back in May of 2010:
"While he favors abolishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he has said that such a goal is unrealistic and that he would push only to scale back the agency's role."
Paul had another explanation yesterday, too -- maybe people thought it was him who favored scrapping the agriculture department when in fact it was someone else.
"A lot of times people get conflated with other people saying things and all of a sudden I'm saying something that I never said," Paul explained. "But I'm not in favor of getting rid of the Department of Agriculture."
Check Paul's discussion of the burden of carrying around 20 years of "popping off" into a Senate campaign below. Relevant portion of the video begins at the 1:11 mark.
Late Update: This morning, the Lexington Herald-Leader delved into the Courier-Journal's reporting of Paul's views of the Department of Agriculture in its report on the Farm Bureau forum:
Paul...said he is not for eliminating the agriculture department.
Conway said he based his comment about Paul's view of the agriculture department on a news report last May in The Courier-Journal about an interview Paul had with the newspaper's editorial board.
A videotape of that interview shows that Paul was asked what government departments he would favor eliminating.
Paul said he favored elimination of the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and "maybe Commerce." He then was reminded of his father's stance in favor of eliminating the Department of Agriculture.
Paul responded: "Well, I'm not for the big subsidies out of the agriculture department, whether you have one or not." He went on to say that he is unlikely to succeed at eliminating any department of the federal government, "but we certainly have to get rid of the stuff that is bad in those departments."