Home / News / Policy news / Vilsack charms Senate ag committee

Vilsack charms Senate ag committee

Agriculture.com Staff 01/14/2009 @ 2:44pm

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack promised a multi-pronged approach to shoring up farm and rural incomes at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday, while appearing to please both Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

Vilsack promised to maintain Congress' intent in the recently passed farm bill's safety net for producers and he said the USDA will try to finish the new law's rules quickly. Vilsack said that he sees conservation programs as a source of revenue for rural communities and farms that should be treated "almost as a commodity." He said USDA should work with states to promote efficient marketing of ethanol. He cited an Iowa tax credit for fuel retailers who sell biofuels as one example of what can be done.

Agriculture has a role to play in dealing with climate change, he said. On the one hand, "how can we reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture?" he asked, "versus how can we utilize our farm fields and forests as carbon sinks." Vilsack sees payments for carbon sequestration as another potential source of revenue in rural America.

"There are multiple opportunities and USDA has to do it all," he said.

Vilsack said that he also sees his job as being an advocate for the farm families he represented as a lawyer during the farm debt crisis of the 1980s.

"These are good people. These are hard working people," Vilsack said, and their values are important to the entire country.

On the issue of farm program payments, Vilsack said it's important that farmers who deserve payments get them and those people who don't deserve payments under the law should not. He said the USDA needs a better data base on program payments, "for us to learn from that data whether we need changes."

When asked by Senator John Thune (R-SD) about the need for allowing more than 10% ethanol in regular gasoline, Vilsack didn't say whether he favors it. It's a decision that will be made by the Environmental Protection Agency. But Vilsack said he has talked with Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the EPA, about the need to have an adviser who understands agriculture.

At one point, when Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) talked of "breathtaking" changes in commodity prices last year, Vilsack told Lugar that he didn’t know much about the farm Lugar owns, but he’s familiar with the one run by the family of Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa. "if I were you, I'd be listening to Chuck Grassley. He does pretty well for himself," Vilsack said.

Vilsack also seems to share the interest of Lugar, Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and others on the committee in combating hunger in this country and in developing nations.

"This is a powerful, rich country, and none of us should be satisfied that there are children going to be hungry," Vilsack said.

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack promised a multi-pronged approach to shoring up farm and rural incomes at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday, while appearing to please both Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

CancelPost Comment
MORE FROM AGRICULTURE.COM STAFF more +

Farm and ranch risk management resources By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Government resources USDA Risk Management Agency Download free insurance program and…

Major types of crop insurance policies By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Crop insurance for major field crops comes in two types: yield-based coverage that pays an…

Marketing 101 - Are options the right tool… By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am "If you are looking for a low risk way to protect yourself against prices moving either higher or…

MEDIA CENTERmore +
This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Scott Shellady: Options 101