Sec. Vilsack heads to the Hill to talk a plethora of challenges farmers are facing and how USDA is stepping in

Members of the Senate Ag Committee took Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to task over inflation and sky-high costs to farmers.

He told lawmakers about new USDA efforts to help the food supply chain, including a rule change to the Packers and Stockyards Act and addressing the infant formula shortage.

“This is an unprecedented time for agriculture. As we come out of a global pandemic, we confront a war in the breadbasket of Europe, which is choked off a sizable portion of the world’s grain and oilseed production. American agriculture can meet this unprecedented moment.”

“In an effort to try to create more new and better markets for our farmers, we start with the poultry tournament rule. There are two components to what we have disclosed today. The first is an effort to try to create greater transparency between integrators and producers, providing additional information to the producer before they enter into contracts. It’s modeled after FTC franchisee disclosure efforts and it’s really designed to help producers be able to better value the cost and risk they’re taking in entering a contract with an integrator.

“We also are announcing today a $200 million effort to try to help existing meat and poultry facilities. It’s an intermediary loan program. It’s going to provide grants to co-ops other nonprofit organizations, public agencies, to create revolving loan funds to assist and help those facilities to remain in business. Part of our responsibility is also to provide help and assistance to the families that as you mentioned, are struggling. That’s the reason why it’s important to get the SNAP program where it is it’s important to continue to promote the WIC bonus.

“We just sent a letter to all of the state health commissioners as well as to Gerber, Nestle, and Mead Johnson, indicating our willingness to work with them to provide waivers so that they can continue to expand contract brand options in terms of the WIC state agencies allow the use of contract brand alternatives that were not previously authorized, as well as temporarily allowing them to use non-contract products to be substituted.

“We will pay the rebates in the WIC budget itself so the companies will not be at risk financially for the substitutions. I think it will help assist in expanding access to product.”

USDA also announced it will allow producers to terminate CRP contracts if they are in the final year of agreement. The Department says the flexibility will allow farmers to address the global food and supply challenges by turning those acres to crops.

It is a one-time voluntary termination, and producers will not have to repay rental payments if they qualify.


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