Vilsack: Debate Pits Growers Vs. Children

It’s coming down to a choice between large growers or feeding more hungry children in a troubled economy. That’s the decision U.S. lawmakers are facing, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters on Monday.

Retailers and others involved in the industry surely heard President Barack Obama’s request that lawmakers cut farm payments in his speech last week to a joint session of Congress. According to Vilsack, he already has heard some questions and concerns about the Obama administration’s plan to redirect subsidy payments for large growers into nutrition programs as a way to help end hunger by 2015 and stem the rising tide of childhood obesity.

"We will do our best to frame this discussion in that way, so that people understand: 30 million children, 90,000 farmers," Vilsack told Reuters after speaking to people who work with the nation’s food banks and anti-poverty groups.

"It is a tough choice, but it’s a choice that folks are going to have to make," he said.

Farm, anti-hunger, and land stewardship proponents usually work together on the omnibus "farm bills" that set U.S. policy on farm supports, stewardship incentives, public nutrition programs, exports, agricultural research, and bioenergy programs. Child nutrition programs are due for renewal this year.

President Obama last week proposed phasing out direct payments to growers with sales of more than $500,000 a year, to save $9.8 billion over 10 years, or roughly one-fifth of the $5.2 billion spent annually on the payments. Growers say they count on the payments to help provide stability amid volatile commodity prices, high costs for fertilizer, and unpredictable weather.

Direct payments are paid regardless of crop prices. Other U.S. subsidies are triggered by low prices. The administration would rather spend the money on childhood nutrition programs. One in six Americans receive some food from USDA programs such as food stamps, Vilsack said.

Farm groups and farm state lawmakers already have spoken out against the plan. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad have been among early critics.

About 126,000 U.S. farms have sales above $500,000 a year, according to the Agriculture Department.

Lawmakers rejected proposals for the 2008 farm law to limit grain, cotton, and soybean growers to a maximum of $250,000 a year in crop subsidies. But they voted to deny crop subsidies to people with more than $500,000 in adjusted gross income from off the farm and they tightened payment rules somewhat.

Vilsack said times have changed in the months since the 2008 law was enacted. "This is a different time than even when the farm bill was passed," he said in an interview, noting the dire economic conditions. He urged anti-hunger advocates gathered in Washington to make the case to Congress to support the move.

"There are vested interest groups that want to protect those (direct farm) payments," Vilsack said in a speech. "They are very vested. One fellow suggested that this was a declaration of war," he said.

(Source: Reuters)

Leave a Reply

Latest News
ManagementARA 2016 Report and Crop Mix for 2017
December 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting and the projected acreage mix for Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In …
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Ryan Bartlett
Crop InputsCompass Minerals Appoints Vice President, Innovation An…
December 8, 2016
Ryan Bartlett, Ph.D., has joined Compass Minerals as vice president, innovation and product development. Dr. Bartlett will be responsible for Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2017: New Cropping Systems Set For Debut
December 7, 2016
Herbicide-resistant weed are inching ever-closer to a potentially frightening saturation point here in the U.S. Heading into 2016, USDA planting Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
December 7, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
Fertilizer storage The Andersons
CropLife 1002016 Fertilizer Report: Another Really Rough Year For A…
December 7, 2016
In many ways, the fertilizer category cannot seem to catch a break. During the early part of the 2010s decade, Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Winter wheat
HerbicidesTalinor Herbicide Approved For Wheat And Barley
December 7, 2016
Talinor herbicide from Syngenta has received federal registration from the U.S. EPA, giving wheat and barley growers a new option Read More
Forage Sorghum
UncategorizedMilestone Achievement Continues For Dow AgroSciences, A…
December 7, 2016
New and innovative forage products are on the horizon driven by continued collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longev…
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More