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Eight Years

Written by Dennis Sun

Under our current administration, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is the longest serving agriculture secretary since Orville Freeman, who also served eight years as secretary in the 1960s. He was also our President’s longest serving cabinet member.

Before being appointed Secretary of Agriculture, he was the Governor of Iowa. Just that by itself gave him the knowledge of rural ag issues to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary. 

A while back, Secretary Vilsack gave an interview with DTN, in which he spoke on his accomplishments during his eight-year tenure. During the eight years, he was there for the implementation of two very popular Farm Bills, so politics played a big role in his duties.

He wasn’t that poplar when he was first appointed, but Vilsack worked hard, and later had the respect of some in the ag sector. As Secretary of Agriculture, one still has a bullseye on their back, and that bullseye is Farm Bill, the whole $1 trillion worth. A little over 80 percent of the Farm Bill funds goes to food stamps. That means one child in twenty lives in a house where someone receives food stamps. That’s horrific. How can anyone in Washington, D.C. say America is doing well with that many people on food stamps? In some cities, food stamps are a cottage industry where people are proud of receiving food stamps. What started as a good program is lately an out to not get a job for some.  Some do deserve food stamps, and as a nation we need to have a program to help those, but it has gotten out of control.

Secretary Vilsack was in office when the Country of Origin Labeling was stopped by Congress, but that was brought on by Canada and the World Trade Organization. He tried to change the beef checkoff and that also was stopped by Congress.

The interesting part of the interview was when Vilsack talked about the Democrats and rural voters. Despite the Democrats helping to create a Rural Council to help champion federal efforts in rural America, election hopes for Hillary Clinton were partly undone by rural voters. Secretary Vilsack tried throughout the last year to encourage the Democratic Party to do a better job of talking to rural America. 

“Democrats need to talk to rural voters. That’s the first thing that has to happen. They can’t write them off,” Vilsack told his former advisor David Axelrod during the Democratic National Convention in July. 

The Secretary warned there was a price to pay for not talking to rural Americans. 

He said, “They can’t ignore them. They actually have to spend a little time talking to them. They have to basically start the conversation with thanks, thank you for what you do for us.”

He went on and said that “the food we eat, the water we drink, the energy we use and a significant percentage of the military we rely on comes from rural America.”

Well, the Democrats didn’t do that, and the rest is history. Rural America is proud to work over accepting a handout they were not entitled to, and so when they voted, they voted with pride.