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Johnson and Vilsack Meet Over Dairy

05 June 2009

WASHINGTON - National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to discuss issues affecting America’s family farmers and ranchers.

Johnson and Vilsack discussed a variety of timely issues including climate change, the dairy crisis, farm bill program implementation and the renewable fuels industry.

“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s willingness to meet and have a frank, open discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing those in rural America,” Johnson said.

“The climate change legislation currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives is a step in the right direction but falls considerably short of addressing the potential for America’s agricultural producers to be a major player in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Secretary Vilsack clearly understands and supports agriculture’s role.”

The ongoing dairy crisis is having a crippling impact on family dairy farmers across the nation. With demand shrinking, market prices collapsing, input costs increasing and reduced credit available, dairy farmers are facing a unique set of challenges on multiple fronts. Johnson thanked Vilsack for the steps taken by USDA thus far, but urged further action.

“The severity of today’s situation requires additional action beyond what has been provided thus far. I urged Secretary Vilsack to provide additional help to resolve the immediate situation and proactively create workable policy options to prevent a repeat of this market collapse in the future,” Johnson said. “Secretary Vilsack is fully engaged and understands the devastating economic impact spreading throughout rural communities.”

The establishment of a standing disaster program was a top NFU farm bill priority and Johnson urged Vilsack to release the regulations of the disaster program as soon as possible. “Year after year, we know natural disasters will occur. The department is working diligently on the program rules and I am confident we will begin to see regulations soon for the livestock related indemnity programs,” Johnson said. Because the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance (SURE) program is new, the rules will take longer.

Johnson also urged Vilsack to continue voicing common sense regarding the contentious issue of indirect land use effects relative to the Renewable Fuels Standard proposed rulemaking from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA is part of the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, established by President Obama, tasked with working in a comprehensive manner to guide the continuation and growth of the biofuels industry.

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