Vilsack says Ag Needs to 'Pick its Fights'
Dec 10, 2012
Pro Farmer Extra
- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter
Dec. 7, 2012
Vilsack: Ag must strategically pick ‘fights’
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at last week’s Farm Journal Forum criticized some farm groups and others for picking fights like food stamps, regulations and animal welfare, saying such actions are alienating the rest of the country and jeopardizing farm programs.
“We need a proactive message and not a reactive message,” Vilsack said.
• On why we don’t have a farm bill: “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a (continued) shrinking (and aging) population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country.”
• On renewable fuels: “You’re hearing the RFS is history. I’m here to say it’s not. I believe we’ll continue to see a robust commitment from this administration to the RFS.”
• On climate change: Vilsack said research is needed to mitigate the impact of climate change and repeated his interest in maximizing land use by increasing the practice of double-cropping, including helping find markets for the production from double-cropping and research in improving doublecropping enterprises.
• On river transportation: Vilsack said President Obama is concerned about water levels on the Mississippi River, and has directed the matter be dealt with.
• On direct payments via the farm bill: Vilsack recalled his first speech as Ag Secretary was to a cotton group and he told them direct payments were gone. “I was right the first time,” he said.
• On food stamps: Vilsack repeated what he has said before on this topic – that most of the food stamp recipients “played by the rules” and truly qualify for such payments, including those on social security, disability, children and those whose wages are well below what is needed. He noted benefits of food stamps go to (1) those who get them; (2) grocery stores; (3) jobs affiliated with moving food bought via food stamps; (4) packaging and processing in the food sector to provide products; and (5) part of a safety net for farmers as food is purchased by the needy.
Vilsack said some people think the money cut from food stamps would go to other farm bill programs, but that is not the case. He stressed there is always a need for reform for ways to improve the program — “until we get to zero fraud and abuse, we can always do better.”
• Regarding helping find spending cuts at USDA: Vilsack said he has told appropriators and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to “give us time to manage” and find savings internally. He said if across-the-board (sequestration) cuts would come via failure to reach agreement on fiscal cliff matters, it would limit USDA’s flexibility to make adjustments.
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