The Obama Administration’s approach to production agriculture and the next farm bill came under fire this week in the kick-off to work on the 2012 Farm Bill.
Top House Ag Republican Frank Lucas derided USDA for proposing cuts in key farm programs - while stressing broadband, biofuels, regional food system supply chains, forest restoration and ecosystem market incentives... “Are those the really primary issues, where the administration is going to go in this next Farm Bill? Are you turning rural America into a bedroom community?”
Vilsack denied that - arguing more farmer income today is off-farm - rural unemployment and poverty is higher - and that farmers are aging and the rural population declining... “The reality is if we can create better paying opportunities, if you keep the resources that are produced in the farm in the community, by linking local production and local consumption you create wealth. And you allow that wealth to generate within the community. This is not bedroom communities this is about making rural areas vibrant for young people in particular anxious and interested setting up their families and establishing a life.”
Lucas wasn’t buying it - and pointed out Democrats and Republicans overrode President Bush’s veto of the 2008 Farm Bill in a fight also over the direction of U.S. farm policy. Lucas served notice to Vilsack that with farm bill budget dollars rapidly dwindling - ag lawmakers will fight for producers. And then this exchange - once again over ‘bedroom communities’...
Vilsack and Lucas verbally sparred over the term “bedroom community”, and the Administration's vision for the future of rural America and the role of farming in the 2012 Farm Bill.
Lucas insisted Vilsack deliver his message back to the Administration.