U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack spent some time at World Dairy Expo on Tuesday, taking questions for more than an hour-and-half on everything from the lack of action on the farm bill to the school lunch program. Vilsack says the House did have the votes needed to pass the farm bill but leadership did not want to bring it up before the election, because they didn’t want to have a full conversation about the depth of reductions that are forthcoming.” Vilsack noted the House Budget calls for $184 billion in cuts to the farm bill including $134 billion in cuts to nutrition programs, substantially more than called for in the farm bill passed by the Senate or in the House Ag Committee bill.
He was asked about the dairy security act contained in the bill and specifically the controversial supply management provision. Vilsack stressed that once again, the dairy industry has not reached a consensus on dairy policy and that something has to be done to eliminate the wide swings in dairy prices. He expressed confidence in that both Senate and the House ag committees saw fit to put the dairy security act in their respective farm bills and since there is no alternative being offered, this was the way to go.
As for complaints that the school lunch menu isn’t offering enough calories especially for active students he pointed out that these guidelines were not created by USDA but by a panel of experts and again, something has to change as we attempt to fight childhood obesity.