House Agriculture Committee member Tim Huelskamp sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that Secretary Vilsack provide a list of his priorities for the Farm Bill. Congressman Huelskamp requested that Secretary Vilsack provide a response of his specific requests by August 13, 2012.
"Secretary Vilsack has indicated that advancing the Farm Bill is a top priority of this Administration, so he should waste no time in providing a list of specifics to our office and to the public as to what the Farm Bill should contain," Congressman Huelskamp said. "I look forward to the Secretary's prompt, timely, and complete response."
The full text of the letter can be found below:
August 6, 2012
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing to respectfully inquire as to what exactly you would like included in the next Farm Bill. In numerous media reports in the last two weeks, you have been quoted as saying that a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill is simply "an excuse" to not put in the work to pass a long-term bill. Such a statement can only be taken as an expression of opposition on the part of the Administration to a shorter extension of the existing bill.
However, details from the Administration as to what would be acceptable, either in the context of an extension or of a full-term Farm Bill, are sorely lacking. The statements from your office are vague and unhelpful. You do offer broad platitudes and general ideas--"maintain a strong safety net," "improve conservation," and reduce errors and fraud within SNAP--but provide no clarity as to how these goals should be attained. While we had 23 words from USDA explaining the agency's position on "Meatless Monday," our office has received zero words about USDA's specific priorities for the next Farm Bill.
Administrators of agencies under USDA jurisdiction have been equally vague. During hearings before the House Agriculture Committee over the last eighteen months, they have been repeatedly asked what programs are most important to them, and how they can be improved. Each time, the witnesses deferred to the Committee, refusing to identify any potential improvements to the programs they oversee.
It is clear that you have issues and concerns with the extension. If you would like to see something better, we would be happy to consider your recommendations. I respectfully request that you submit to my office details of programs, including estimated costs, by August 13, 2012.