Agriculture secretary says passage of farm bill would aid economy

Nov. 15, 2013 at 1:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Obama administration wants a farm bill passed by the end of the year because it is "more than a farm bill," says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Speaking at a Washington event launching Politico's coverage of agriculture, Vilsack said the bill would impact many aspects of the U.S. economy, the political website reported Thursday.

"It's more than a farm bill," Vilsack said. "It's a jobs bill, it's the opportunity for us to invest in business development in rural America to take advantage of our natural resources. ... It's an energy bill ... it's a trade bill, it's a reform bill ... and it will help to reduce the deficit."

The farm bill has been stalled in Congress over a number of contentious issues, including country-of-origin labeling and food assistance.

Several lawmakers charged last month that changes to require the labeling of some imported meat and food products were protectionist. The meat industry also has complained about the proposed rules.

Vilsack said the change is already being considered by the World Trade Organization, which he said was better able to deal with the issue.

Otherwise, he said, "every time there is a trade discussion, folks can run to Congress and get the rules changed in the middle of the game, and I think we need to let the game play out."

The bill is also bogged down over how much to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House wants to reduce funding for the program by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years, while the Senate wants to trim only $4 billion during the same period.

The White House has not said what cuts, if any, it would be comfortable with.

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