Vilsack Steps into Farm Bill Process

Despite pledging to remain on the sidelines of the farm bill fight earlier this year, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is taking a much more hands on approach to shepherding the bill through Congress and publically pushing for its quick passage.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Vilsack and the US Department of Agriculture pledged to take a hands off approach to the farm bill. Rather than submitting their own version of the vital farm legislation, Vilsack signalled his willingness to follow Congress’s lead and support whatever bill came out of the legislative branch.

After months of delay, however, and the fracturing of congressional leadership, Vilsack appears to be re-entering the farm bill fray.

The gridlock in Washington has led, in part, to a collapse of coherent leadership. While Senator Debbie Stabenow has been a constant supporter of passing the farm bill, House leadership appears to have collapsed, with the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas, remaining strangely silent and sending mixed messages while waiting for singles from Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Vilsack’s summoning of the House and Senate agriculture committee leadership is a sign that he is becoming increasingly involved in the farm bill fight. “What I was interested in doing today was basically get all four folks who are critical to this process in the room at the same time talking to each other and we’ve accomplished that,” Vilsack said. “There is a commitment to work and try to get this resolved. The countryside needs a five year farm bill, rural America needs a five year farm bill.”

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer