Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Secretary Vilsack

Secretary Vilsack was in Ludowici, GA yesterday holding a listening session.

The room was packed and a lot of issues were surfaced. Three were peanut issues. The first was increasing government purchases of peanut butter brought up by Armond Morris who serves on an industry committee to enhance government purchases of peanut butter and peanuts. Secretary Vilsack encouraged farmers to contact their local school systems to get them to increase orders and that USDA would follow suit to supply all the orders. He said the system is driven at the local level.

The second issue was the $500,000 gross farm sales cap to participate in government farm programs. Allen Whitehead brought this up and explained that he and his brother were not large farmers and not wealthy but that the cap would disallow them from participating. The Secretary said that this was an issue that would have to be studied further and that perhaps it needs to be an adjusted gross income number. Allen pointed out that southern farms have higher cost higher valued commodities than our Midwestern counterparts.

Joe Boddiford brought up the issue of the posted price. The issue brought the most defensive position form the Secretary, stating that reducing the posted price would benefit shellers but not growers because of the nature of the way peanuts are marketed under options contracts. This is an area where we have more education to do. If a cotton miller has a call option and the market goes down he benefits also. We have to find a way to more adequately define market price. Farmers are being hurt right now because there is a surplus which cannot clear out so prices are depressed. The posted price was always to be set at market clearing prices. Watch out for the train wreck in July and August...it has a great likelihood of happening.

Non peanut issues were raised by organic producers, by a poultry grower from Coffee County who like all his neighbors has lost their integrator and have chicken houses with mortgages and no chickens in them to pay the bills. If you don't feel for those farmers you should. They have a real problem and need some help in a really bad kind of way. Also, the issue of animal identification surfaces and other general discussion on things like energy.

1 comment:

Expogirl said...

Thanks for update on the session. this is actually the only thing I've read about it. Maybe one day folks in DC will understand southern ag. Still trying to eat my weight in peanut butter!! G.