Earlier this week, Southern Farm Network spent a few minutes with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack discussing the drought in the Midwest, and the impacts on the Carolinas. At planting time, the hope for the 2012 crop was high, and many sectors of the ag economy were counting on a bin-busting crop. The reality is that’s not going to happen. Livestock producers from the Carolinas were counting on that huge Midwestern crop, because it’s needed here just as much in the Midwest. Secretary Vilsack had these thoughts:
“That is one of the reasons why its so important for the Congress to come back to work in September and finish its work on a farm bill because that would contain a revival disaster programs under the 2008 farm bill that would provide help and assistance in the form of direct cash assistance to livestock producers who have lost the capacity to feed animals. It might be able to allow them to keep their herds for longer periods. It’s a tough situation and its particularly tough if you basically liquidate. Its very hard to get back in that business. So we are hopeful that congress gets to work in September.”
Where does the ag secretary see the holdup in the farm bill?:
“Right now I think there is a group of members in the House of Representatives that want to cut significantly from the farm programs. If you take a look at Representative Ryan’s budget it is nearly $50 billion in cuts over a ten year period in the commodity and crop insurance and an additional $10 billion in reductions in the conservations. Then you add to that $134 billion reduction in the nutrition programs, 14% of which goes in the pocket of a farmer, so that is another $18 billion of less farm income. I think some want cuts like that and others don’t. That’s where the sticking point is.”
Does Vilsack feel that urban legislators that don’t understand the agricultural climate are primarily responsible?:
“I don’t know if its that. I think you have to put a coalition together to get things passed and it is important for urban legislators to understand that their constituents have something at stake when we talk about something that is referred to as the farm bill, which I sometimes refer to as the food, farm and jobs bill, so that maybe it becomes of more interest to urban legislators. You have to remember though, those food programs are part of the overall safety net because it allows us to manage and encourage supply. If folks can buy more at the grocery store it means more has to be produced, and that’s why they get a certain percentage of those nutrition dollars. When you are talking about a $134 billion reduction its $18 billion less farm income. That’s serious.”
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Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack on Inside Agriculture.