Sec. Vilsack: Bipartisan farm bill needs to pass
By Jennifer Carrico
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the importance of passing a farm bill is even more apparent now with all the changes being made in the bill.
Vilsack spoke to a group of farmers and agricultural professionals at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s Economic Summit at the Scheman Building on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on July 22.
“Despite Congress having a hard time getting things done, the USDA is still working every day,” he said.
While senators and representatives work toward getting a farm bill that is bipartisan and can be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, USDA has completed another Conservation Reserve Program sign-up, which includes 86 percent of the applications being accepted in Iowa alone.
USDA has also developed new strategies for farmers to deal with climate change and how to take care of the land and conserve natural resources like soil and water.
“Trade is another area USDA continues to work on by negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union so they will understand the biotechnology needed to meet global food demand,” he said.
Vilsack said the Renewable Fuels Standard is currently under serious attack and the USDA will continue to support the RFS to continue to provide markets for farmers and jobs for rural America, as well as better national security and less dependence on foreign fuels.
Vilsack said having the right farm bill is very important and isn’t an easy task.
“It’s important to have a budget and know that the funding is being used efficiently,” he said.
He stressed the need for a five-year farm bill and that splitting the food programs from the farm programs may not be the best option.
“It’s so important for everyone to understand why both programs are important for farmers and consumers. Both the farm and food parts of the bill help provide markets for the products farmers produce and improve the economy both locally and nationwide,” Vilsack said. “We must demand no extension of the current policy. An extension is just the same as failure.”
He stressed the importance of providing the necessary incentives, and energy title, an extension of the bioeconomy, as well as additional opportunities for the land and jobs.
“Congress tends to do things when we are in a crisis. It is time to get a farm bill passed before we get to that point,” Vilsack said. “This is about every American. If we don’t pass it now, it is unlikely to pass after this try, as we will be on the downhill slide with this administration.
“Time is running out. We need to get something done by Sept. 30 or we revert back to 1947 law, which is definitely not something we want to do,” he said in concluding remarks.
Vilsack said the farm bill would have to be a bipartisan bill to get done and passed by the deadline. He is doing what he can to help make that happen.
Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.