U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, during a speech Jan. 14 at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting, encouraged farm leaders to create strategic alliances and reach out to groups that might have differing opinions. Here’s an excerpt from that speech:
Now I know that there are not too many fans of the Humane Society in this room. But egg producers thought it was in their best interest to avoid 50 different referendums, 50 different sets of rules. So they sat down with folks and they reached common ground. After all, isn’t that what we’re asking our Congress to do? Isn’t that what we’re asking our political leaders to do – to sit down and make common cause? I think the egg producers have the right idea. Now, the issues may be different for different types of producers but we need to be constructively engaged at all times and conversations. We may not find agreement. But I think we will substantially reduce those who oppose farming and substantially reduce the reach of those and hopefully be able to get enough proactive activity that results in a five year bill.
If you follow what I preach, you know that I insist we listen to all sides. As much as I agree that farmers must engage in conversation with non-farm groups, I honestly don’t believe sitting down with the Humane Society of the United States would be constructive.
Vilsack sites the chicken and egg folks as a textbook example of how ag groups can find “common ground” with HSUS. Say what? How can we find “common ground” with a special interest group that wants to put livestock producers out of business? Animal rights activities don’t really care what we do because they’re only concerned with pushing their twisted agendas.
HSUS has teamed with some cattle producers to file suit against the Beef Checkoff, and now HSUS is going after the National Pork Checkoff. Here’s where I’m going with this: the U.S. Secretary of Ag oversees all checkoff programs. As a pork producer, I vote on whom I want on the commodity checkoff board but Secretary Vilsack actually decides who gets a seat on that board. Now Vilsack says we must listen to extreme animal right group, and herein lies the problem!
A few of this administration’s moves in recent months cause me great concern:
- Calling rural America less relevant while addressing the 2012 Farm Journal Forum
- Proposing to stop farm kids from helping with livestock or crop production
- USDA Memo in Support of Meatless Mondays
- Promoting less meat consumption by replacing the food pyramid with the” food plate”
- Limiting meat proteins available through new school lunch rules
Because some farmers and advocates of the agricultural community made their voices heard, the USDA retracted its memo in support of Meatless Mondays. The new school lunch rules have been relaxed, and the U.S. Department of Labor put new child labor laws on hold. That doesn’t mean these issues won’t resurface sometime over the next four years, so we must remain vigilant in our agvocating efforts.
The U.S. agriculture community must spend as much time advocating for agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture – which should be a natural ally – as it does with consumers and anti-farming groups. Now the U.S. Secretary of Ag is trying to convince the mainstream that groups like HSUS are best buds with the small farmer—it’ more than I can handle!
I must admit that I’m extremely concerned about our new administration, and some of the people who are serving and their beliefs. We already know there are former HSUS employees high in the ranks of the USDA. Now I’m reading that Raú Grijalva is being considered for U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and he’s being heavily backed by groups that want to eliminate animal ag!
When governmental agencies are infiltrated by this type of fanatics, they’re in place to make policy. We can’t afford to let this happen! Speak up. Write emails. Contact your elected officials. It’s important that people in office understand what we do on the farm.