Vilsack: "Let's Start the Farm Bill Conversation the Right Way"Thu, 20 Oct 2016 17:30:25 CDT
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made an appearance this week at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Following his address to FFA members, Vilsack visited with the attending media. Radio Oklahoma Network’s Farm Director Ron Hays was on the scene to report his comments on getting a head start on the Farm Bill conversation.
“I think there’s urgency in starting the conversation appropriately and that’s what I’ve been stressing to audiences that I talk to,” Vilsack said. “The conversation in 2011/12 started with ‘we have to save money.’ Well, once you start a Farm Bill conversation that way… it becomes very difficult.”
Vilsack explains starting negotiations off on a negative tone with the insinuation that budgets will be cut, those at the table inevitably turn on each other, fighting for the biggest piece of the pie they can secure for their interest. He suggests the alternative in opening up discussions but fears history could repeat itself.
“The first way to start this conversation should be, ‘What is the need?’ Vilsack said. “It may be significantly higher than we’re spending today - fair enough. Once we’ve defined that universe, then let’s be creative about how to meet as many of those needs as we possibly can.”
The secretary also expressed concern about conversations that explore transferring money from the Nutrition Title to the farm programs. He insists it is not that simple; that those funds would more likely flow somewhere outside of the Farm Bill ‘universe.’ He says in reality, when people are able to buy more at the grocery store through the Nutrition program, they will, and if they buy more, than more has to be produced and packaged and processed. At the end of the day, he says, it provides stability to the market.
“It’s important to keep that coalition together, and it’s important that coalition understand that they’re in it together,” Vilsack said. “My hope is the conversation starts the right way, and that it moves expeditiously to a conclusion so there is not the uncertainty that we had in 2011/12/13.”
Listen to Vilsack’s comments on starting Farm Bill discussions early, by clicking the LISTEN BAR below. You can also listen to his prepared remarks given at the National FFA Convention, by clicking here.
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