Change for USDA?

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Jan 19, 2004
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Northeast Montana
Vilsack signals changes at USDA

Payment limits, COOL top new USDA chief's to-do list

Dan Looker

Successful Farming magazine Business Editor

Agriculture Online

1/26/2009, 12:52 AM CST

President Barack Obama's promise of change is also reaching the U.S. Department of Agriculture, newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made clear to reporters in his first formal press conference Monday.

Vilsack promised to modernize the Department's computer technology and said that one of the first things he did last week was to meet with his staff to go over existing ethics standards at the USDA as well as new ones ordered by the President.

Vilsack said that under President Obama's order freezing the Bush administrations last minute rules, his department has already acted on two of them.

It has withdrawn a $3 million cut from the specialty crop block grant program in the new farm bill. Vilsack said the administration supports efforts to encourage local production of fruits and vegetables.

Vilsack also wants to take another look at the Bush administration's last minute rule on limits for commodity program payments. Critics of the rule, including Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have said that it continues a weak definition of what it means to be actively engaged in farming. That loophole has allowed urban owners of farmland to collect payments illegally, some argue.

"I've directed the Department to extend the comment period for the payment limit rule for an additional 60 days," Vilsack said. The President wants public debate on the issue and so far, the Bush administration rule has generated "a small number of comments," Vilsack said. "I am particularly interested in suggestions that will help the Department target payments to farmers who need them."

He added that any changes the new administration makes to the rule would not affect payments for the 2009 crop, since farmers and lenders have already made plans based on the current understanding of payment limits.

The USDA hasn't yet indicated what, if any, changes it would make to the Bush administration rule for implementation of mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL), but Vilsack said "I want to state very clearly that I strongly support COOL."

Vilsack pledged strong enforcement of existing laws administered by USDA, including the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Vilsack also said that USDA will be involved in helping to create the "green collar jobs" in the biofuels and energy industry that the President campaigned on. The Secretary said USDA will work very quickly to implement new programs in the farm bill to pay farmers to raise energy crops and to help existing ethanol plants move toward using cellulosic feedstocks as well as corn.

USDA will also conduct research on how farmers can participate in carbon trading and sequestration programs, he said.

But the USDA's work in carbon sequestration will also involve its Forest Service and efforts to manage forests to reduce wildfires, Vilsack said. "Right now with uncontrolled wildfires we're actually contributing greenhouse gases rather than reducing them," he said.

Vilsack didn't wade into the details of how the Administration will treat calls for changing the amount of ethanol that can be blended with regular unleaded gasoline, which is controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency, not USDA. The current 10% limit is seen by the industry as a "blend wall" that's preventing greater use of ethanol in the fuel supply.

But he said it's important for USDA to have a good working relationship and good communications with EPA.
In Canada right now all we see is the pain from MCOOL but maybe it will be good in the long run? Personally I still have a problem with it as it will restrict trade and in the big picture that is usually not a good thing.
Here is an example: The heavy populated areas of eastern Canada do not raise enough beef to supply their own domestic market. It makes more sense to import American beef from the corn belt than it does to bring in beef from feedlot alley in Alberta(where the majority of the cattle are)? Likewise it makes more sense to move beef from the southern Alberta packing houses into the Pacific northwest than ship it from the feedlots in the heartland of America. Just makes economic sense?
Canada is moving toward a very regulated meat system. It would not be fair to import any meat that does not meet the same standards the federal government imposes on their own producers? That means mandatory traceback, probably mandatory age verification, premises ID, and I suspect in the not to distance Environmental Farm plan? This would mean defacto...all meat trade across the border, both ways, would come to a grinding halt. Would this be a good thing? Would it better serve the consumer?
If you were a small packer in the midwest that had been selling into the Toronto market and now must compete for markets further away...would you be happy, or would you shut the doors?
It is questionable whether the large Tyson plant in Washington state would be viable without cattle from feedlot alley in southern Alberta? How many small cow plants closed in the border states when Canadian cows were restricted? By the way, I do think these things are going to happen....we are going down that road right now!
I do hope Vilsack carries out the promise to enforce and enhance the Stockyards act by limiting captive supplies. It would be tough for these political clowns up here to not follow suite!
Not so sure about his ethanol leanings or his environmental stuff? Seems he's drank the Koolaid on those?
Today on another site I was reading a post that brings back some sad memories- as I watched grown men cry as their farm/ranch's were being foreclosed on because of those depressed prices--while bullhauler after bullhauler and Trans X truck after Trans X truck of swinging beef whooooshed by on the highway- all headed south...
And their whole lifes worth of building a herd dispersed at $200-300 a head ...

The Packers never meant NAFTA to work the way many cattlemen were explained it should work- as they've guaranteed the rules were always for them...Screw the US producer when they could--then when the conditions changed and US opposition built they got the opportunity to screw the Canadian producers--and now they are looking for the longterm way to screw both of us...

Both countries need an identical Truth in Labeling law- M-COOL and a ban on Packer Ownership of Cattle...

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