Ag Policy Blog
Jerry Hagstrom DTN Political Correspondent

Wednesday 06/26/13

Vilsack: Outrage Needed Over Farm Bill

BETHESDA, Md., (DTN) -— Farm and rural groups need to move from disappointment to outrage about the House’s failure to pass a farm bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here Tuesday in a speech to the National Rural Assembly, a gathering of diverse rural community activists from around the country.

In reaction to the House failure to pass the farm bill last week, Vilsack said, “What do we see from rural advocates? Utter disappointment. Are you kidding me? There ought to be outrage.”

“I really love the theme” of the conference, which is “Building an Inclusive Nation,” Vilsack said. But he added, “Folks, we are not going to have that inclusive nation if [Congress doesn’t] understand there are going to be consequences, have to be consequences for turning their backs on rural America.”

“In small town if there is a dispute folks don’t go to their corners, they go to the coffee shop or church basement to figure it out,” Vilsack said. “They can’t afford the luxury of division.”

The farm bill, Vilsack said, is “the blueprint, the engineering decision to this revitalized economy.” Last year the House experienced no negative consequences for failing to pass the farm bill, but it shouldn’t be that way he said.

The House, Vilsack added, needs to understand that “consequences are severe if the House doesn’t reverse its actions” and send a bill to the president.

“It is going to be important for groups like this to express more than extreme disappointment,” he continued. “We shouldn’t be satisfied with ‘we just couldn’t get it done.’ It is an opportunity to address friends and neighbors with a message of what rural America does,” Vilsack said, including providing food at affordable costs, water supplies through conservation measures, landscapes that people enjoy and a disproportionate percentage of members of the military.

“You have got to be the messengers of that proactive message,” Vilsack said. The immigration debate, he added, “is about replaying the immigration story of the country.” It is an opportunity, he noted, to say “we are going to rebuild the economy by embracing these people. Agriculture needs a work force.”

But he added that working for the farm bill can’t be just about rural activism, but also about telling the rest of the country about what rural America does for them.

About 85 percent of the nation’s food supply is grown in rural America, Vilsack noted. There may be disputes about the methods used to grow it, he said, “but we are a food-secure country.”

“We only import because we like access to food year-round,” he said. “Urban Americans need to be reminded that much of the water they consume comes from rural America, particularly in the West, also that the feed stocks for renewable fuels come to rural America.”

“Despite these contributions, rural America is faced with some very serious challenges, starting with people, Vilsack said, adding that rural America lost 40,000 people last year.

“We don’t market the extraordinary opportunities that exist in rural America,” he said. “Many who are raised there leave and do not come back, and few raised in urban or suburban areas are attracted.”

Vilsack said that he personally was lucky because he met his wife in college and fell in love with her and her home town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Vilsack acknowledged that part of the population loss is due to the mechanization of commercial agriculture, but noted that the Obama administration is doing all it can to promote local and organic production as “alternative food systems.”

“We have fewer folks, [more] older folks, poorer folks and we’ve got to change that,” Vilsack said. “We have to create markets where they are not competing against commodity market [dominated by] larger producers. So we focused on local production. We have seen a dramatic increase in a number of these markets, farmers markets, food hubs. We are focusing on encouraging schools in rural areas to focus on where their food comes from.”

But he also said that rural officials focus too much on taxpayer-funded institutions such as schools and hospitals, and need to focus on creating businesses that will pay taxes.

Rural advocates, he said, need to figure out what is in the farm bill that will appeal to environmentalists, conservationists, nutrition advocates and labor unions and get them on board.

“Those are all allies,” Vilsack said. “They have not been embraced. They have not been encouraged to speak about these issues.”

If rural advocates fail to make that connection, he said, the population will continue to fall and with “the way we draw legislative districts,” rural America will have less and less representation in the House.

“You have, I have, we have a very important mission,” Vilsack said. “Understand the role you can play. Express more than extreme disappointment. Demand that they pass legislation that is supportive and not destructive. Demand appreciation for those in rural America.”

Posted at 8:43AM CDT 06/26/13 by Jerry Hagstrom
Comments (15)
Why should anyone be outraged? We have been shoveled hundreds fo thousands per year for doing nothing more than plant a crop we wouldve planted anyway. The crop insurance program is the biggest fraud in government lining the pockets of agents who work very little and guarantees wealthy farmers a profit. I hate the welfare programs but i collect more welfare than they do, in fact I will collect 60k in pp this year forddoing less than the welfare folks do. Vilsak is a clueless joker!
Posted by Bill Billson at 12:00PM CDT 06/26/13
How much will you recieve in direct payments Bill?
Posted by Aaron Cross at 1:13PM CDT 06/26/13
I do not participate individually in USDA programs because I do not want my friends to know the sick amount of welfare I receive. My wife each utilize a LLC and obtain approximately 38K each per year in DCP. Our crop insurance subsidy is a laughable 200k per year. Thanks for picking up the tab for my weath increases Mr. John Q. Taxpayer
Posted by Bill Billson at 1:45PM CDT 06/26/13
If it would make you feel better about the "welfare" you willing receive, you and/or your wife could opt out of the Farm Program and crop insurance participation. You do not have to participate. Nothing is stopping you from self-insuring your risk. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. The only clueless joker is the one you see in the mirror.
Posted by T JAMES DAVIS at 2:06PM CDT 06/26/13
Bill Billson has never seen a farm.
Posted by Cypt Frms at 4:39PM CDT 06/26/13
Vilsak is another clueless democrat oblivious to the economic carnage caused by government targeting the largest farmers with vastly superior income and investment guarantees. Annual lottery sized benefits for the largest farmers and less than food stamp benefits for the smaller farmers is outrageous. Federal crop insurance is a multibillion dollar financial wrecking ball responsible for driving hundreds of thousands if not millions of people from rural America due to the highly discriminatory allocation of benefits.
Posted by John Olson at 5:07PM CDT 06/26/13
Cypt Farms and T James are prime examples of the shamelessness of the modern farm
Posted by Unknown at 8:27PM CDT 06/26/13
Cypt Farms and T James are prime examples of the shamelessness of the modern farm
Posted by Unknown at 8:29PM CDT 06/26/13
I would rather be modern. I don't think anyone wants to go back to forty acres and a mule!
Posted by Cypt Frms at 8:57PM CDT 06/26/13
Placing a target on the backs of agriculture by referencing the Food and Jobs Act as Farm Bill is the primary cause of this failure. A false image of "welfare for farmers" only draws negative attention. Government can not create jobs, only refrain from preventing success of large and small industry by over taxation.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:02AM CDT 06/27/13
Marcia My thinking is that some day crop insurance is going to be the down fall of us all. Crop insurance makes farmers out of very poor so called farmers. Anyone can farm with insurance, only good managers can go it alone.I have crop insurance but only because we have been forced into it because of high cost. What i am saying is insurance has driven land cost and rent sky high (nothing to lose, anyone can do it).We farmed for thirty years without it, came though the droutht of 88 and several years of sub 2.00 corn and still was able to build the farm up. Don't these guys see what it has done to all our cost, everything has gone up because everyone is guaranteed not to fail, even guys who should not be farming.
Posted by Raymond Simpkins at 6:08AM CDT 06/27/13
Let's apply the idea of farmers need to insure themselves to the rest of America. Imagine the tens of billions we would have saved if we required those hit by Katrina and Sandy to have insured themselves.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 8:36AM CDT 06/27/13
Great idea Craig for those with multimillion dollar homes. Perhaps the taxpayer should not have to replace these top end mansions.
Posted by John Olson at 10:11AM CDT 06/27/13
Hey unkown, man up and put your name on the debate.
Posted by Mark Knobloch at 12:35PM CDT 06/27/13
To unknown: I am a modern farmer that was a Fellow at the National Center For Food and Ag Policy in the 1980s. Ag Policy is dynamic and changing. Always has been and always will be. I am also a 12th generation farmer whose family came to this country in 1637 settling in Lynn MA. My family moved west on the Oregon Trail in 1847 with the westward expansion. They were pioneers and I am very grateful they survived their trek. I never forget what they accomplished to seek out new Ag frontiers. I have a great interest in Ag Policy as a farmer and as a family historical legacy. If you can't/won't identify yourself, your words are irrelevant to me. I wonder if you are even a farmer? I make no apology for being a "modern farmer". My family were always modern farmers.....that's why we are still farming.
Posted by T JAMES DAVIS at 12:59PM CDT 06/27/13
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