A Sign of Things to Come?

Newly confirmed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was invited, as every one of his predecessors has been, to speak at the Opening General Session of the Cattle Industry Annual Convention. I’ve been in Phoenix a couple of days now covering the annual meeting of the nation’s beef industry organizations, and many of us fully expected Secretary Vilsack to address the cattlemen. In fact, at one point, a press conference was on the agenda, so someone thought the USDA Chief was coming.


He didn’t.


According to a press release I received last evening from our friends at the National Farmers Union, Secretary Vilsack was with them:


National Farmers Union President Tom Buis met today with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the challenges currently affecting those in rural America.


Buis and Vilsack discussed the drastic change in the rural economy due to the sharp decline in commodity prices and what this means for producers.


Now, no one should begrudge Tom Buis a meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture. As I wrote here many times, Buis was actually long rumored to be a top candidate for the job himself. And, of course, Buis represents the second largest general farm organization in the country, and campaigned, along with several of his fellow NFU members, for President Obama.


When I shared the press release with a few cattlemen in Phoenix, however, one of them commented that the decision to skip Phoenix and over 5,000 beef producers from across the country, and stay in Washington to meet with one farmer was probably a harbinger of things to come. As you can gather from my reporting on the Convention, NCBA has a lot of concerns, not so much with USDA and Tom Vilsack, but with Obama’s environmental administration, as well as with the new Congress.


But they would certainly have been even less concerned with Tom Vilsack had he come to call in Phoenix.