Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Monday for a Rural Issues Forum at the farm of Jim and Barbara Hundstad in Bath, South Dakota. An estimated 300 South Dakotans attended the forum where representatives of farming and ranching organizations along with area producers had the opportunity to ask questions of Rep. Herseth Sandlin and Secretary Vilsack.
When the subject of the economic situation of dairy producers came up, Vilsack said USDA was working on a plan to distibute $290 million in direct support for dairy farmers approved last week by Congress. “The general principle for me is to get as much money in the pockets of producers as quickly as I can,” he said.
Vilsack also talked about the need for restructuring the industry. “I think really what will be next in line is a longer term discussion about whether or not we need to make structural changes in the way the dairy industry is currently operated so we no longer have these rather stark contrasts between boom and bust,” Vilsack said. “We need to figure out what changes, if any, we need to make to our support programs, to our marketing programs, to who’s included in those programs, to see if there is any way we can create greater stability.”
Rep. Herseth Sandlin agreed. “We must find solutions to address the economic crisis that our milk and pork producers face, and that many other livestock producers find themselves facing,” she told the crowd.