Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that passing a five-year farm bill is the Obama Administration’s highest priority.
He said Congress should take it up when members return from the upcoming two-week break.
When it does come up, Vilsack said an honest debate on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is needed. According to Vilsack, reducing eligibility will only reduce the number of people on the program. What we need, he said, is to transition them to a better economic opportunity.
By redirecting existing resources to training, Vilsack said we can transition beneficiaries off SNAP the right way. He said reducing the number of SNAP beneficiaries by five-percent across the country would save 45-billion dollars over 10 years.
Vilsack also talked about the importance of crop insurance and repeated USDA’s need to have flexibility in administering conservation programs and strong trade promotion authority.
Vilsack also said the farm bill should resolve the dispute with Brazil over cotton by developing a program that addresses the concerns of the World Trade Organization without harming the U.S. cotton industry. He also called for a strong agricultural research program that includes specialty crops and organic agriculture and said the rural development title should include conservation, outdoor recreation, renewable energy and local and regional food systems as well as commercial agriculture.