U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack told the audience at the 2012 Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C., that agriculture needs to have a proactive message, not a reactive one. “Young people today have all of these opportunities, and we expect them and want them to live and work and raise their families and keep the farm or start a business in rural America, but we have a reactive message; we don't have a proactive message,” Vilsack said.
He explained why those in agriculture need to pick their battles carefully. “We have to be strategic about the fights that we pick because the fights we often pick are misinterpreted in some corners. Sixteen percent of America's population lives in rural America. That means, in essence, 16 percent of the elected Representatives represent rural America; 84 percent don't,” Vilsack said.
“So for example—and I know I'm going to get heck for this—the egg producers decide they want to sit down and talk to the enemy, the Humane Society of the United States. They're tired of having to fight referendum after referendum. They don't want 50 sets of rules. They want one set of rules. They want one rule, and they want to make peace. They get castigated by folks in agriculture, ‘You're going to destroy the system.’ Actually they’re not. We're going to grow it, because we're not going to be fighting 50 different battles every two years. We are going to grow our industry. We're going to be proactive. We're going to fight a good fight, a strategic fight, one that's worth fighting,” Vilsack said.
Pushing for legislation's passage
Chad Gregory, president and CEO, United Egg Producers, was pleased with Vilsack’s statements regarding H.R. 3798, the Egg Bill, but he is more concerned about how this legislation fares on Capitol Hill. “Comments made by Secretary Vilsack about rural America included some positive comments about the UEP/HSUS agreement and the Egg Bill legislation. While we appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s support, it is the support of Congress that we really need in passing the Egg Bill,” Gregory said.