Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s recent comments on the relevancy of rural America are sparking a heated debate across the country, one that threatens to intensify already existing divisions within the farm community.
Vilsack’s comments last week were intended, in part, to address the repeated failures of Congress to pass a new farm bill and prod farmers into thinking of new solutions to the problem of their declining influence. “It’s the fact that rural America, with a shrinking population, is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country,” Vilsack said. “We had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”
This has provoked some anger across parts of the farm community. According to one Alabama state legislator, the real problem the farm community is facing is government regulation, and Vilsack was unfairly criticizing the agricultural sector. “That’s like telling an automobile worker not to worry where the parts are coming from and just keep making automobiles,” State Sen. Gerald Dial said. “And if next year we don’t have any motors, oh well.”
Other ag officials say that Vilsack’s comments were not mean to chastise the farm community, but to unite them. “California’s farmers’ priorities should be partnered with farmers in the Corn Belt, who should be partnered with farmers in the Southeast, who should be partnered with farmers in the Northeast,” former Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks said. “If you’re going to be effective, you need to stand together and be stronger.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer