Vilsack Addresses Importance of Farm Bill

In a recent stop in Madison, Wisconsin, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed the importance of passing a new farm bill and warned Wisconsinites of the dangers of continued congressional inaction.

For the past several months, the farm bill has been at the center of rural news. Despite warnings from farm organizations and agricultural lobbyists, Congress refused to take decisive action on the bill, preferring to wait until after the November election to pass the vital farm legislation.

The reaction to the expiration of the current farm bill has been mixed. Farm organizations have lambasted Congress for its willingness to play chicken with important farm programs. Some farm officials across the country, however, have reassured Americans that there will likely be few immediate changes because of the farm bill’s expiration.

Vilsack’s recent speech disagreed with this optimistic view. Dairy farmers in particular could face a major catastrophe because of the lack of a new farm bill. Dairy supports are among the roughly 25 percent of farm programs that will immediately lose funding. Vilsack predicted that if a new farm bill is not passed this year, that milk prices for consumers could skyrocket, potentially increasing to $6 a gallon.

“I don’t know if there are too many dairy producers who would advocate that quick of a jump because there would be a backlash by consumers and that would have a long-term impact on producers,” said Vilsack.

In addition to dairy farmers, Vilsack pointed out that many USDA grant programs would be halted without reauthorization in the form of a new farm bill. While in Madison, Vilsack announced more than $100 million in USDA grants (19 of which will go to Wisconsin) that will be indefinitely stalled without new farm legislation.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer