Farm Bill Debates Goes Beyond Farming

by Larry Sailer

Photo courtesy of

A few days ago, I heard Judy Woodruff interview U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about America’s Agricultural Success.  She says, “Amid all the worry about how long it will take the economic recovery to kick into high gear, there’s a little-noticed sector that’s doing very well, thank you: American agriculture.”

Sec. Vilsack credits agriculture’s success to “an extraordinary investment in infrastructure…  Farmers are buying lots of new machinery, like large tractors with sophisticated GPS systems, leading to new hiring on the part of companies like John Deere, which recently added 250 people at a plant in Ankeny, Iowa, that manufactures cotton pickers.”

Auto-steer tractors are just one example of how agriculture is fueling the economy.  Biotechnology is also important an important economic contributor.  Technology has redefined agriculture in other ways, as well.  Agriculture technology, ranging from the Internet and SmartPhones to Genuity® SmartStax® RIB Complete CornTM and Genuity Roundup Ready®2 Yield Soybeans, has led to greater business efficiencies and even increased yields.

With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why Woodruff would say there are many more facets to agriculture’s success story.  I find it disconcerting, however, that she specifically mentions “two particular bright spots” in the ag sector as the federal department’s housing and food assistance programs.  Neither of these so-called “bright spots” are directly related to farming, yet they make up the lion’s share of the USDA’s budget.

Woodruff’s interview with Sec. Vilsack opened my eyes that the Farm Bill debate is not just about farming.  The Farm Bill is a very complex program that has a huge budget and will need to involve a lot of hearings and a lot of give and take to build into the new program.