Vilsack addresses NFU members at convention

Vilsack addresses NFU members at convention

The 114th anniversary convention wrapped up March 8 in Minneapolis. Vilsack spoke about GMO labeling, trade with Cuba.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack celebrated the uniqueness of U.S. agriculture during his address at the 114th anniversary convention of the National Farmers Union March 7 in Minneapolis.

“It is important to focus, not just solely on large-scale production agriculture, but it is important to continue to focus on diversifying opportunities for all sizes of operations,” he said, receiving thunderous applause from NFU’s diverse membership.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at an event earlier this year. (Photo: Bob Burgdorfer)

Prices for major commodities have fallen in recent years, but Vilsack believes investments made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will equip rural America to weather the difficult times. Among the items he listed: renewable fuels initiatives, new and beginning farmer education programs, crop insurance, rural development grants and conservation.

Labeling

Vilsack called on lawmakers to act on labeling issues.

He explained that it would be “chaotic” to have state-by-state rules surrounding the labeling of food derived from genetically modified crops.  This could lead to consumer confusion, higher food prices, and even access issues, Vilsack said, noting, “Congress needs to address this, and they need to address it now.”

The secretary added that it is possible to have a mandatory process that uses a “smart label” to balance a consumer’s right to know without punishing farmers or conveying the wrong impression about food safety.

“If Congress is unwilling to make these tough decisions…then delegate the responsibility to the Department of Agriculture,” Vilsack said. “We’ll be happy to make the tough decision.”

Cuba

Vilsack told the group Congress needs to act on another tough issue, too, by removing the Cuban trade embargo. The United States “should absolutely own that market,” he said.

Related story: NFU brings annual convention to Minnesota

Source: National Farmers Union

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