The chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is expressing concern about the USDA’s shift in emphasis toward locally grown and organic foods.
Tim Burrack of Arlington, Iowa is attending USDA’s annual outlook conference in Washington this week. He says modern agriculture has come under attack from many conference speakers and attendees.
“I’ve farmed for 37 years and worked with the government and everything—and what I’m hearing out here is radically different than what has taken place in the first 36 years of my career,” Burrack says. “And I just got up and told them so—I said, ‘this is not the USDA that people in the Midwest are familiar with’.”
Burrack directed his comments to Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who is leading the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program.
“And she said, ‘well, you know, the USDA is a big place and there’s room in the tent for everybody’. So I guess that’s the attitude that we all need to work under,” says Burrack. “The concern is that traditional production agriculture has provided for this nation a very safe and very low-cost food supply. And a lot of the emphasis you’re hearing here today is—well, you know, it won’t be cheap food like what we’ve been familiar with. It’s a higher cost source of food—but they say we’re going to do it all.”
We asked Burrack if he’s surprised that the shift in USDA emphasis has come under Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor with strong Midwestern roots.
“No—because it’s very apparent the direction is coming from above him.” And Burrack adds, “I was amazed at the number of USDA employees—and attendees like myself—that made a comment to me afterwards saying, ‘thank you for saying what a lot of us are thinking’.”
At the same, Burrack says it’s also apparent that those opposed to modern agriculture are feeling very emboldened by the Obama administration’s policies.