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Vilsack: Farm Bill Implementation on Track

DANIEL LOOKER 04/07/2014 @ 1:27pm Business Editor

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of North American Agricultural Journalists in Washington, DC, Monday that farmers should be able to begin comparing the farm bill's new commodity programs this summer "so that producers will have a good three or four months to analyze and assess these programs to make the best possible decision for their particular operation."

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Vilsack told Agriculture.com that he expects that farmers will be able to sign up for programs before the end of this calendar year.

Vilsack said that online decision-making tools and materials for Extension educators should be available in a month or two.

Vilsack gets a weekly briefing from the teams in charge of putting the 2014 farm bill into effect. He said that he has asked why so much time is needed to roll out educational information.

"It is quite complicated process, especially as it relates to the decision making tool because you want a decision making tool that doesn't necessarily tilt the outcome towards one type of commodity or one type of region,"Vilsack said.

He also said that USDA has begun hiring temporary staff to help with farm bill signup, and that any consolidation of Farm Service Agency offices will not take place before the signup.

In the pork industry, USDA is working on best practices to quickly identify and reduce the effects of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, he said.

So far, the disease has killed some 5 million young pigs, Vilsack said.

"We are willing to make the virus available to research groups, not just our own researchers but other researchers as we work to try to figure out what kind of vaccine could be created that could potentially deal with this," Vilsack said.

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