Vilsack Appears Before House Ag Committee

Market to Market | Clip
Feb 16, 2024 | 4 min

Even as economic reports have kept coming, the pace of government has slowed with few bills headed to open debate on the House or Senate floor. 

The House Agriculture Committee last held a hearing with a witness in their chambers on June 21, 2023 - 238 days before Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared this week on Valentine’s Day.

Peter Tubbs looks at the back and forth in the hearing room.



Members of the House Agriculture Committee met this week and called Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to answer their questions. Animal disease and trade were common topics for discussion.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, South Dakota, R: “Talk to us a little bit, Mr. Secretary, about are we getting closer to developing a vaccine solution that would not unduly harm trade so that we can have some alternative to total Depop.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “So we were probably 18 months or so away from being able to identify a vaccine that would be effective for this particular HPI that we're dealing with now. The problem, of course, is it mutates and so you have to basically create ultimately a vaccine that is available for all strains. Right. So there's that issue. The second issue is how do you how do you deliver the vaccine? Do you deliver it in a way that is efficient and effective and less expensive, or is an injection required? Well, when you're talking about hundreds of thousands of birds, that's that's difficult.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra, Iowa, R: “Is the USDA concerned about trade disputes, about the USMCA? Is this going to be a big issue because of Prop 12?”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “I will tell you that we are looking at ways in which we can help assist the pork industry. We know it's under a lot of stress as you do. We recently purchased roughly $100 million of pork products in our feeding programs using the CDC and Section 32. The good news is we've seen a significant increase in pork exports. But whereas obviously a lot of work still to do to try to help and assist them. I think we're going to go through a bumpy period here where farmers have to basically make a decision about whether they're going to participate in that market or whether they're going to be more localized.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra, Iowa, R: “Where do you see I mean, how can USDA help on the free trade agreements and how can we expand export markets?”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “The reality is I have a hard time understanding the focus on trade agreements when I'm pretty confident and maybe maybe I'm wrong about this, but do you believe that you can pass trade promotion authority in this Congress? You haven't been able to pass a budget. You haven't gotten a farm bill through. Can you pass trade promotion authority? And if you can't? Why not? And I think the reason you why not is because people have an attitude about trade that requires us to to to rebuild people's trust in trade.”

Barry Moore, Alabama, R: “This past June, the Department of. Announced Snap's error rate, a rate that measured overpayments and underpayments. This announcement included a overpayment rate of 9.54%, which amounts to roughly $30 million a day. Certainly that would be an insult, Mr. Vilsack, to our taxpayers. What concrete, serious and forward thinking steps are on the horizon?”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “States basically administer the program. We are working with state governors to make sure that they understand they need to get back to a more disciplined effort in terms of SNAP. We sort of relaxed the flexibilities or created flexibilities during the pandemic, and we're now asking them to go back to the ordinary work of administering SNAP, which involves two. Representative Bishop's question face to face interviews, which I think will be helpful to restore integrity in the program.”

Rep. Angie Craig, Minnesota, D: “What should legislators be keeping in mind as we look to strengthen the farm safety net in the farm bill from your perspective, Secretary Vilsack?”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack: “Well, I think the challenge is to find the resources to strengthen the safety net without necessarily jeopardizing the capacity of nutrition assistance to do what it needs to do and without taking resources away from conservation, which benefits a broad array of producers. I think that's the challenge. And I think I think there's a creative way to do that that doesn't necessarily limit SNAP and doesn't necessarily take money from the IRA.”

For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs.