January 20, 2017

Farmers React to Vilsack Transition

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took the helm of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The majority consensus in the dairy industry is that Vilsack is an optimal pick for the post.

“The secretary brings with him credibility with other countries, and companies around the world. He brings incredible knowledge of agriculture and the dairy industry specifically and great relationships already established,” says Tom Gallagher of Dairy Management Inc. “Speaking with dairy farmers about this appointment they told me that given the state of the industry with many struggling this is really viewed as a shot in the arm and shot of hope for the future.”

Idaho dairy farmer Brian Esplin also thinks he’ll be good for the post: “I've heard him speak at meetings a couple times. I think he will do a good job.”

Not everyone shares these sentiments, however.

“Why is he promoting dairy when he did everything in his power to destroy dairies with his ethanol subsidies?” questions California dairy producer Tom VanderDussen. “He told California Dairies Inc. board members he didn't care what [ethanol] did to the industry, he was gonna ride the ethanol horse till it was dead. Now he works for us.”

California farmer Karla Blohm questioned the transition on the My Job Depends on Ag Facebook page.

“How can a HSUS collaborator be good for dairy industry?” she asked. “He was personal lobbying our California Assembly to pass the ag overtime bill as well.”

Another farmer in the group accused Vilsack of supporting “Meatless Mondays” in schools. This is in reference to a 2012 incident where an internal USDA newsletter encouraged its own employees to participate in Meatless Mondays as part of its larger “greening efforts.” After industry pushback, USDA pulled the newsletter off its website.