tv Newsmakers CSPAN June 6, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT
guest: well, i think that, you know, it is pretty clear that we still don't have a complete grasp of the size of this spill. so it is difficult to completely make comparisons between this spill and valdez. what we know is that it is worse, and that it is still occurring. so, you know, we have an unprecedented environmental disaster, which is sort of a nightmare that you don't wake up from, and it is a nightmare that you know you are going to have for a few more weeks, which is a special brand of nightmare. so i think it is maybe a little understated to say the worst environmental disaster in u.s. history in some ways, because we're seeing something much more significant in terms of size significant in terms of size compared to valdez and, you know, many more people's lives affected because it is not as remote as prince william sound. host: michael daulton with the
audubon society, thank you for being with us. guest: thank you for having me. host: coming up, david drucker, at 8:35, donna hopkins. and drew mccarthy who wrote "the grand jihad." thanks for being here today. we'll be back tomorrow. . [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2010]
>> our guest on "newsmakers" this week is the agriculture secretary tom villsak joining us by connection from iowa i, his home, where he just hosted a rural summit. let me start with your midwestern summit on the economy. tell us, you've got some big goals for communities and the agriculture economy. can you give our national audience a sense of where you're leading this effort and why. >> sure. the summit was an opportunity for us to educate america about the important role that rural america plays for all of us. it is the supply of inexpensive affordable quality food, it is
the supply of water that we drink and rely on. it helps to make us energy independent and at the same time it's a substantial percentage of our military comes from these small towns. so it's important that there be a vibrant economy in rural america to support families. sadly for the last several decades we've seeb a decline in rural america, an aging population, persistent poverty, fairly significant distinction between per capita income. so the obama administration has decided to put a new framework in place to revitalize the rural economy and it's based on a couple principles. one is that production agriculture is important to the country and rural america so we have to continue to expand markets, both domestically and foreign. it's why our know your farmer, know your food is trying to link people with local production and consumers. we recognize there's a 21st century infrastructure that needs to be expanded, brooned technology. it's important that we expand
the biofuel energy industry. it's important to do a job with working with conservation to make sure those opportunities are enhanced. finally, this whole notion of eco system markets, carbon markets are opportunities to put new capital into rural america, designed to revitalize the economy and give a sense of opportunity where we've een struggling for several years. >> let me introduce our two >> let me introduce our two reporters who will be joinings in questioning today. alice, agriculture reporter and michael, who have a lot of properties in farm states and follows these issues closely. let's begin with alan. mr. secretary, are there proposals that you're going to take away from the summit that we would see surface in proposals that the administration will make in the 2012 farm bill? and following up on that, what's at stake for taxpayers in a farm bill? >> well, first of all i think what we've found from the rural summit was confirmation that we
were headed in the right direction. there was keen interest in this new framework. what we're going to continue to work on is making sure that we have a plan and strategy to build out the renewable fuel industry and in rural america. we have right now an industry that's regional in nature in the beft and we need to make sure that all parts of the country are able to help contribute to producing more biofuels and industry. we don't have to wait for the 2012 farm bill discussion to do that. we are continuing to invest in the broad band. what we need to do is go back to these communities and make sure that technology is fully utilized and people understand the power that it has to create new entrepreneurial enterprises in small communities across the country. the great american outdoors initiative which secretary salazar, administrator jackson and i with the president
announced several weeks ago really is designed to do a better job of utilizing conservation dollars in a way that increases outdoor recreational opportunities. that doesn't have to require a farm bill discussion. but what we hope to be able to do over the course of the next couple years is make sure that, as the farm bill is being as the farm bill is being crafted, there's an understanding and appreciation between rural development and agriculture, between the necessity of making sure we have an adequate safety net and recognizing that part of that is a good-paying job for many farm families. >> mr. secretary, for those who haven't had the pleasure of following a farm bill before, who may not realize that it typically is not a partisan issue, could you spell out the type of regional conflicts and industry and commodity conflicts that you're going to have to resolve to have a successful conclusion to this? >> well, chairman peterson is doing an interesting thing. he's going around the country
with the house agricultural committee and conducting a series of hearings. and the basis of those hearings is to determine whether or not there's a way in which the safety net process or procedures within if farm bill can be crafted in such a way that we get away from pitting commodities against livestock or livestock against commodities or specific commodities against each other. i think we need to get away from that. the reality is that we're seeing a shrinking number of people who call themts farmers in this country. 2.2 million, less than 1% of the country's population. it was just a few years ago that 15% of the population were farming. and we were only one or two generations removed from someone who was on the farm. today many people living in cities are many, many generations away from farm families. so it's important for agriculture to speak with a single voice, it's important for us to reconnect with consumers so they understand precisely br their food comes from. from. so my hope is that we do get away from the regional
differences, that we get away from the commodity conflicts that have marked the past and that we look at a way in which the safety net can be crafted to help all farmers and at the same time we recognize the important role that rural development and particularly with the emphasis on regional rural development will play in helping to build a far more prosperous rural america and help take some pressure off our urban areas. >> i understand your interest in having a unified family but for those who don't follow farm bills, what's an example of conflict pitting a region against a region, for instance new england dairy farms against california that you would like to resolve? there's no question that dairy has been influenced by regional policies. there have been significant differences the way the dairy industry sees itself across the country. but the reality specifically in
the dairy industry is we have to address that far sooner than the 2012 farm bill. dairy farmers in america today are faced with very significant price spikes. their prices go up for a short period of time to historic highs and then they fall deeply and sharply. and stay low for a considerable period of time putting a great deal of stress on those dairy farmers. the one consistent message that i got in the 20 states that i attended in the rural summit and the rural tour was that dairy farmers were hurting so we put tooether a council representing all parts of the country, all aspects of dairy to say to the industry we've got to come up with a consistent approach that is a national approach. it's not vermont versus california, it's maintaining the dairy industry fror the united states. making it competitive against european competitors, new zealand, for example. that's not going to happen with the 2012 farm bill. that's going to happen before the 2012 farm bill.
>> to make sure i understand what you're saying. you believe there should be and will be a separate dairy bill prior to the farm bill that will address the dairy price issues that you're concerned about? >> we put this council together and charged them with coming wup a proposal that is is a consensus proposal by the end of this year. my hope is they will meet that deadline. and if they do i think it's something that congress needs to discuss in 2012 before the farm bill discussions get started in earnest. >> mr. secretary. >> we don't have any time to waste on that. >> you talked about the administration creating a different framework for relating to rural america. and revitalizing the economy. one of the things that some lawmakers have criticized you for is too much emphasis on rural economic development, not enough on productive agriculture. how do you respond? >> well, i would like to sit down with those lawmakers and explain some of the things we
are doing at usda so they are ensured. one of the things i would talk to them about is our renewed emphasis on trade. we just announced an upgrade of our trading numbers for this fiscal year. we anticipate trade to be at $108 billion which will be the second highest number in history. we saw a record in the first six months in this fiscal year. we anticipate a $28 billion trade surplus in agriculture. trade surplus in agriculture. every billion dollars of trade generates somewhere between 7 ,000 to 9,000 jobs. so it improves job opportunities. so we're focused on expanded trade opportunities. i've had a number of international trips. international trips. we're also about increasing domestic markets. the capacity and the ability for us to do a better job of linking local producers of all sizes. not just small farmers, with schools, hospitals, institutional purchasers. they don't need to buy food a thousand miles away when they
can buy it close to home. setting up processing facilities and ware housing facilities through our rural development programs will help establish a value chain and supply chain that will create jobs and help the bottom line. so our focus is absolutely on all aspects of farming and rural development. the last thing i had say is there's a direct connection between the health of many mid-sized operations and the capacity to have off farm income. our farmers have to work at least 200 days off the farm to least 200 days off the farm to be able to keep the farm and many of their spouses have to work as well. we have to be focused on rural development if we want to keep them in business. and we certainly do. >> if we can follow up on trade. you mentioned the current trade surplus. just going forward with the concern over the shaky euro and the importance of the european market to our trade and the agriculture area, are you concerned about projections about thaa, the health of that
trade relationship in the next year or so? >> well, you're obviously concerned about the european economy because it has repercusions throughout the global economy. but we are very aggressive in other parts of the world. two of our best trading partners are mexico and canada. weved a very robust set of commitments from china recently in the grain area. we're seeking to reopen markets in japan, korea and taiwan for some of our beef and pork products. we're having renewed discussions with russia on poultry. so there are opportunities for us outside of the e.u. that are significant and important and we'll continue to work to expand those opportunities to make new partnerships, new arrangements. one of the reasons the president is focused on the transpacific discussions is a way of multilaterally engaging in new trade opportunities. there are free trade agreements that hopefully congress will be able to work on and ultimately ratify in the very near future in panama, colombia, and south
korea. so there's a lot of trade opportunity outside of the e.u. we'll continue to want to do business, but it's not business, but it's not necessarily dispositive of how we're going to do if the european trade is off a bit. >> i'd like to follow up on a trade question as well, mr. secretary. america taxpayers will be paying $147 million a year to brazil because the agriculture department's cotton subsidy program has been ruled illegal. what are you going to do about that in the next farm bill? >> well, i think first and foremost is to educate folks about what has already been done on the credit export guarantee program that many have been responsive to the concerns raised by brazil. i would also say that the payments being made are substantially less than the penalties that could have been assessed by brazil that would have compromised agriculture in a very significant way. not only would we have had
tearives assessed against our products but our intellectual property compromised as a result of the decision. >> if i could pull up, wouldn't it be cheaper to revise the underlying cotton program itself that costs taxpayers between $2-3 billion a year? >> reality is changes have been made to the program that gave rise to the concerns. we think that there is an opportunity perhaps for brazil and for others to be acquainted with the change that is are have been made to determine whether or not that satisfies the concerns that have been raised. in the meantime, in order to avoid some very serious imposition imfringement on intellectual property that would have severely compromised agriculture, we made a destoigs make some interim steps to protect agriculture as much as we could. >> on a domestic subsidy issue as well. the administration is twice attempted to curtail subdi payments to the wealthiest
farmers. capitol hill doesn't seem too interested in that. what are you going to do differently in the 2012 farm bill to address your concerns about the richest farmers getting subsidies? >> well, i think chairman peterson again is engaged in a listening sessions and has indicated the need for us to take a look at the way in which those payments are struct trd to determine whether or not we can use risk management principles and technologies to be able to provide a broader safety net at the same time making sure that it's fair and reasonable and one that doesn't break the bank. and i'm anxious to work with the chairman. i'm sure the president is anxious to work with the chairman to see what concepts and thoughts he has. risk management has become a very important tool for us in terms of being able to reduce the risk and spread the risk. and i think that there's some very keen interest on the part of commodity groups to see what the chairman might come up with. i don't want to pre-judge that process until i've seen ant
tune to see what the chairman puts on the table. >> how active the partner is the administration going to be in crafting a 2012 farm bill? the house started a series of hearings and the senate agriculture committee just announced that it's going to have its hearing on june 30. many responses to questions we've asked, you've said that will get taken care of before the farm bill. how active is the adminissration going to be? >> i think it's important for us to understand the role today of the usda relative the farm bill discussions and that is to provide technical assistance and information. it's a little premature at this point to be talking specifically about what the priorities are other than to say that i think there needs to be a robust commitment not just to the safety net but also to rural development. that those two have to go hand in hand. i think the framework that i think the framework that we've put together, that we've discussed earlier in the show is one that i think can help create an appropriate frame
fork conversation about a 2012 farm bill. we will certainly add to that the discussion of how we might be able to impact and affect regional development as opposed to community by community economic development which has been the focus of the past. if you take a look at the successful rural revitalizations that have already taken place in this that most often they're pursuant to a regional strategy where communities come where communities come together, leverage resources and brain power and come up with a plan that takes advantages of their assets. that's the kind of thing we want to encourage. we want to use this next year or two to establish a proof of concept, full, so that the 2012 bill is being shaped there will be some real data and real life examples that we can point to as successes as we try to direct rural development and the safety net of the future. >> mr. secretary, i'd like to ask about the unhappy and expensive legacy of racism expensive legacy of racism that's been alleged within the
department. the department paid more than $1 billion to claims to african american farmers. under discussion is an additional $1 billion or so. as i understand it the department is proposing to pay on the order of $1.2 billion to settle claims by female and hispanic farmers. what's the status with regards to the claims? >> first of all, this is a complicated subject that does indeed involve, unfortunately, a number of years of abuses that are staying on the usda's history and we want to close the chapter and we want to do it in the right and fair way. african american farmer litigation, was certified by the courts as a class action so it becomes a little easier to deal with that case because it's a single case in which you can propose a settlement and that can resolve all of the claims within the class. the two cases that you've
mentioned, the garcia and the love case, are a little different in that they've not been certified as class actions so they are in a sense individual claims potentially thousands, tens of thousands of individual claims. and so what we have proposed is an alternative to going to court in individual lawsuits court in individual lawsuits that could take years and years and years to adjudicate is putting a settlement fund together in a claims procedure that's very similar to what was done in pick ffered, giving people the option to take that settlement as opposed to proceeding with their individual case. if they choose to proceed with their individual case they're certainly welcome to do that. our hope is that this provides a quicker form of justice than the litigative path. but the option is still ablee and open to all those claiments. so it's an effort on our part to say we understand, there are claims that need to be resolved. we want to do them as quickly and fairly as possible and we have proposed this as a way to approach it.
>> the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case called the offer woefully inadequate and so i'm wondering do you see yourself getting any closer to resolution of this, very complicated case? >> that's why it's important for you and the viewers to understand the difference between pickford and garcia and lover. this was not an offer in the sense that we're asking the plaintiffs lawyers to accept the offer. this is in a sense an individual offer to the thousands of people who have claims. they have an option. they can either go down the route that we've set forth and settle their claim on an individual basis, or they can continue to proceed to litigate their claim. their claim. because they were never certified as a class action they can't get into the same process as the pick ffered claiments were, one case satisfies all claims. we can't do that because the courts have decided we can't. so what we're trying to do is offer them something in lieu of class action, we're offering
them the capacity to settle their individual case on pretty much the same set of principles and standards as the pick frd litigation. they could get up to $50,000, they could get a debt relief, they could get resources for the payment of taxes, or they can choose to proceed with litigation. and the plaintiffs lawyers i think understand that. and i think what they would like to have is is a resolution of all of these cases twunt. that's difficult to do when the courts have not certified a class action. so we're trying to do the best we can with the judicial circumstances that are facing us, we're dealing not with one case but literally thousands of cases. we just want to give each of those plaintiffs the individual option to either take the money now or to pursue litigation against the department and whatever the judgment is, if there is a judgment, we'll have to pay it.
to pay it. >> so i take that to mean that we can't expect an annougesment any time soon of the settlement in any of the outstanding cases. >> well, i don't think it's fair to suggest that. there's also a native american case where there are negotiations and discussionings negotiations and discussionings taking place. that has been at least partially certified as a class action so there's an option there for a single settlement to take place. in the love and garcia case that is not possible. so what we have to do is set up a process by which plaintiffs individuals have the option to decide to settle their case or not. we're not going to get to a single resolution because there's not a system that would allow that to happen. but what we can do is what we have done, which is to put $1.3 billion on the table and say this money is available for any plaintiff who is interested in settling their claim on the following conditions, very similar to what we have proposed in pickford so that there is some equity here
between how we're treating folks. and if folks choose not to do that, that's their option. that, that's their option. now, n pickford they don't have that option. they essentially have to settle. they have to take what is on the table. so it's a slightly different circumstance, and i know it's hard to understand and explain, but that's what we're faced with because the courts have made the decisions they've made. >> if we can switch back to the >> if we can switch back to the farm bill. the last farm bill included for the first time a so-called specialty crop title that concentrated resources and benefits for trutes and vedgets. do you anticipate building that and making that larger than in the past? if so are there specific way that is you want to enhance the specialty crop provisions of the next farm bill? >> i think it's going to be important for us to determine precisely what the frame for the farm bill is relative to how much resource is available. buu clearly there is a growing interest in specialty crops. that's one of the reasons why
we are now asking congress instead of waiting for the farm bill to help out, asking for tte congress to take a look at the child nutrition reauthorization act, increase the funding for that at $1 billion and enable schools across the country to purchase more fruits and vegetables and whole wheat and nonfat dairy into the diets of our youngsters in order to combat not just the hunger but the obesity issue. to us, our issue today is on getting that reauthorization done in a robust way so that we provide the resources to be able to purchase substantially greater amounts of fruits and vegetables. and i think there is growing consensus and we're hopeful that congress will act this year on the child reauttedsization act. then once that's done, then we can start taking a look at what the financial constraints and restraints may be for a 2012 farm bill and then determine within those constraints how we can best allocate resources to
promote agriculture of all kinds. but there's no question that specialty crops are a significant part of agriculture in the united states, and we want to be supportive of them. >> mr. secretary, i just want to get in the last few minutes and ask you about food safety. there's legislation moving in congress that deals primarily with the fda. what has u. da usda been doing? >> the fsis, the food safety department of the department of agriculture, the mission of the department of agriculture is in a slightly different regulatory place. we have the capacity to shut down processing facilities and we have a fairly restrictive menu of things that we are responsible for. meat, poultry, and processed eggs. we have been focused primarily on beefing up our regulatory regimes, making sure that we are focused on higher standards of e coali, salmonella, and other path jen that is we know
to be causing serious food-borne illnesses. we've been increasing training, inspections, working to develop better communication between f.d.a. and u.s. dad so if there's an incident that they're aware of that implicates our school lunch and breakfast programs, that we're able to immediately notify the schools to make sure that they take the necessary precautions. so it's been a holes stick and comprehensive effort with the food safety group that the president has established and we have 50 recommendations and we're working our way through the implementation of those 50 recommendations. and some of them have been fairly historic. and we're going to continue to work on trying to identify patho jens, trying to increase our testing, to do a better job of food safety.
>> why shouldn't food safety reg tri activities be concentrated in one agency? what's wrong with that? >> there's nothing right or wrong. the key here is to have a system that works. the key is to make sure that the system is consistent. what we had was a process where there were the agencies didn't necessarily communicate effectively with each other. it didn't necessarily have a uniform incident command structtedtur where recalls and information could get out. we are trying to use the new social marketing strategies and techniques to get the message out to consumers as quickly as possible. that doesn't necessarily require single agency but it does require better coordination. it's been 70 years or so since there's been a significant improvement to f.d.a.'s regulatory structure so it's something that doesn't happen very often. so we want to make sure that this time it happens well and we are working in paralevel
with them to make sure that our systems work well. >> very briefly, how is the economy in iowa's rural counties compared to this time counties compared to this time last year? >> it's improving. unemployment is down a little bit. employment total number is up since the first of the year. in iowa we've had seven consecutive quarters of growth, economic growth. so things are improving. and it's mirrg what's happen in the nation as a whole. we've had five consecutive months of job growth. there's still work to be done but i think the recovery act is having an impact. cbo says 2.5 additional jobs. about 31,000 of them are in iowa we've retained or saved, created. that would add another 2.5% to the unemployment rate. so things are getting better. >> joining us on "newsmakers" this week from