Tom Vilsack says the next Farm Bill needs to “provide aid to farmers affected by natural disasters, increase funding for agricultural research and continue important conservation programs.”
Boldly going where no man has gone before, he spoke in a decidedly non-Washington way when he added, “Farm Bill programs must be streamlined and simpler to understand.”
OK, it’s been said before by many a vote-crazed politician, but Vilsack doesn’t need to curry favor from Tea Partiers, Street Occupiers, 99 percenters or 1 percenters. Of course, no politician has ever carried through on that ‘streamlined and simpler’ statement.
The current $284 billion Farm Bill, approved in 2008 after much gnashing of teeth and wailing of doom, expires in September 2012. Approximately $210 billion goes to programs like food stamps and school lunches. Slightly more than $70 billion subsidizes commodity crops and funds agricultural research, rural development and energy.
In these times of growing personal accountability and shrinking tax dollars, the most controversial items in the 2008 bill are direct payments, subsidies paid regardless of crop prices and yields. In plain words, your tax dollars at work.
Vilsack takes the customary politician’s view stating farm aid is crucial but adding this qualifier about direct payments: “We have a responsibility to the American people to use their resources wisely and to provide assistance only when it’s needed.”
“A bad crop ruined by a natural disaster or an unpredictable price collapse can put a hard working farm family out of business quickly. Farm families rely on a strong safety net,” he said.
But enough of what Washington insiders say about a new Farm Bill. The Beltway’s behemoths are often guilty of strapping a plow onto a thoroughbred and wondering why that pony won’t race. When I asked Leo McDonnell what programs and titles the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association would like to see remain in the Farm Bill, he responded, “USCA will continue to support a Cattle Title. We are focused on ensuring that the U.S. cattle industry does not adapt the social capitalistic models found within the pork and poultry industries.
At this point, you’re probably saying, “Yeah, but what’s he really talking about?”
GIPSA, probably the one issue that crosses all agendas.
“It is with this in mind,” he said, “that USCA is urging Congress not to weaken several provisions that define the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. This includes various clarifications found in the proposed GIPSA rule. USCA is also urging Congress not to weaken any provisions dealing with the 2008 Farm Bill country of origin labeling law (COOL). USCA would like to note that it's important to address the global trade distortions and the risk that surging beef imports can have on U.S. cattle producers.”