In a first for the American Farm Bureau convention the organization’s president conducted a town hall style meeting with the ag secretary on the floor of the trade show this year. Bob Stallman hosted Tom Vilsack from USDA, and regulations on farmers came up again when Travis Gebhart from South Dakota was handed the microphone.
“My question to you is simply, what can USDA do to instill some common sense in the regulatory process?”
Vilsack responded, “You know this is a really, really important question and it’s one that I grapple with all the time because there’s an expectation I think that the United States Department of Agriculture can, in a sense, impose common sense or impose its will on other agencies.”
Vilsack explained that’s just not how it works in Washington but he did restate that his agency continues to communicate with and educate those sister agencies, and that is a process that should foster greater understanding of farming.
“We make an effort at USDA to educate our sister agencies about the impact that a particular regulation may have, or a notion may have, and we are doing this on a number of fronts. You mentioned water. That’s certainly also true in the food safety modernization area with the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s also true in a variety of areas like the antimicrobial resistance issue. We are trying to get people to understand the real life implications of activities. That’s what we can do. We can’t stop a sister agency from doing something just the same way that they can’t tell us what we need to do. It’s a partnership. It’s a respectful partnership.”
The ag secretary also challenged farmers to do more outreach of their own, including creative social media efforts, to educate neighbors and the public who are getting further removed from farm life.
Roughly 5,000 members across the country are attending the event in San Diego, including 220 from Indiana.