Posted: October 5, 2012
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talked about the impact of the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill at the beginning of this week during an appearance at World Dairy Expo.
While not all farm programs expired at the stroke of midnight on October 1, several very important ones did, including export assistance. “After having four of the best years of exports in the history of our country, the USDA is without the tools to go out and promote trade shows or exchanges that would encourage more exports,” Vilsack said during a town hall meeting, noting that this leaves the playing field open to countries that compete with us. “It would be one thing if there was no competition, but there is competition out there.” Also ending on October 1 with no new food/farm/jobs bill is sign-ups for conservation programs and the beginning farmer development programs.
Vilsack believes the House had both the time and the votes to pass a new bill. “They scheduled eight working days in September – last time I checked September has 30 days. And then they left early,” he said. As far as not having the votes, Vilsack says they never counted the votes. “They never did what is called a “whipping” of the vote,” he said. “Both Democrats and Republicans outside of leadership have done a count and they concluded that there would have been 230-240 votes to pass a farm bill.”
During a press availability, Vilsack noted that Congress should work just as hard as farmers do. “There isn’t a farmer in this country that in the middle of the harvest when work was not completed would get off the combine and say ‘I’ll just take a couple weeks off,’” he said. “They work and work and work until they get the job done, put the combine away, then they relax. Why is Congress any different?”
On another topic, Vilsack was asked about ethanol during the Dairy Expo town hall by a questioner who said it was “not a very popular word” with dairy farmers. “Where I come from ethanol is not a four letter word,” Vilsack responded, noting that ethanol has helped producers, national security, rural economies and the environment. He also carefully explained how ethanol returns livestock feed to the market in the form of distillers grains and how USDA is helping move into the production of advanced ethanol using feedstocks beyond corn. A very good and detailed response that is worth a listen.
Listen to Secretary Vilsack’s Town Hall at World Dairy Expo: Sec. Vilsack Town Hall
Secretary Vilsack press conference: Sec. Vilsack with Press