Vilsack Plans Forums Across U.S.

Posted on 03/09/2017 10:26 AM

Part of Obama administration transition guidance for next president

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material; therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack plans forums across the country to identify existing and emergency issues for farmers, rural America. The sessions in part will be a list for the next president and his eventual USDA secretary and other top officials.

Vilsack said each forum, beginning with one Aug. 29 at the University of Arkansas on changes in land ownership, will focus on specific topics and be attended by USDA officials. Vilsack plans to lead one at Arizona State University in mid-September on the effect of climate change on water and land uses. Sessions later in the fall will focus on agricultural exports, plant and animal pests and diseases, agricultural research and new markets and local foods and market opportunities for farmers.

Background. Administrations usually provide transition guidance papers to their successors. Vilsack said the guidance also will serve as his departing advice on issues the next administration should address in congressional farm bill discussions, work that will begin in 2017.

Vilsack said the 2014 Farm Bill has strengthened financial safety and crop insurance enough to “help farmers transition through some difficult times” and encouraged potential farmers and ranchers to choose agriculture despite a three-year decline in farm income because of lower market prices. “I think there is a stronger safety net. I think there are more options,” he said.

Comments: Transition papers in the past helped identify some key issues for an incoming administration, and in this case will do the same. It helps a new, untested team catch up faster than they would otherwise – especially if career government workers are on the transition teams, as is usual. 

As for as Vilsack’s comments on the 2014 Farm Bill, the verdict is far from clear on whether or not that omnibus measure will be seen as an effective safety net for some producers, especially those choosing the Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program for eligible crops. Reason: ARC will likely show big holes in the safety net if commodity prices go as low in the next one to two years as some analysts think they could. Just ask a wheat producer in Oklahoma, for example, of any decision to choose ARC over the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program, especially when looking at future potential payouts.

And cotton certainly does not have an effective safety net, in part due to Vilsack’s decision to not make cottonseed an eligible crop for the two safety nets in the 2014 Farm Bill. And mostly because the then-cotton lobbyists helped push a cotton program that had it been analyzed would have shown it was an ineffective safety net.

Dairy producers are also complaining about the problems with their safety net program, with just over 50 percent signing up for the program.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material; therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.



Add new comment