USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack strongly defended administration farm policies in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee.
From biofuels and broadband to trade and input costs, Vilsack pushed back hard against GOP criticism. He slammed Illinois Republican Mary Miller’s criticism of President Biden’s push for electric vehicles over those using biofuels.
“800 million dollars provided the biofuels industry, in terms of support during the pandemic, as well as 100 million dollars to expand access to higher blends, 65 waivers that might have been granted in the Trump Administration, that were denied by this EPA, I think it is very unfair to suggest that this administration has not been supportive of the biofuel industry.”
On the lack of an Undersecretary for Trade, Vilsack told Iowa Republican Randy Feenstra; “There is an individual that’s going through the vetting process right now, and I’m hopeful that that concludes very soon. In the meantime, we have a crack team that is working and operating on trade, we’ve had some progress and some efforts, here.”
On the supply chain crisis, Vilsack told Illinois Republican Rodney Davis; “There are empty containers that are leaving our ports, because shippers are making the decision that it’s more profitable for them to have empty containers move back to Asia, than it is to fill them with agricultural products.”
The Secretary rebuffed arguments GIPSA reform, renewed WOTUS and reduced pork and poultry line speeds are to blame for lowering profits and increasing inflation.
On fertilizer inflation and research at Iowa State University Vilsack said; “They have determined that potentially, 30 percent of the corn acres currently in Iowa that are using fertilizer, probably don’t need as much or any fertilizer.”
And, on broadband, Vilsack pushed back on criticism USDA boosted upload and download speed standards to favor less rural areas that may already have internet access; “There is a need for additional capacity, which we learned during the course of the pandemic. So, it’s equipping rural America to basically have the kind of broadband access that is meaningful and that can actually make a difference.”
Vilsack stressed USDA and Justice Department efforts to crack down on anticompetitive practices in meatpacking and to boost processing capacity and price discovery, and added that hundreds of millions in lingering disaster payments for 2020 and ‘21 could be headed out the door by April or May.