It's not every day that Washington D.C. comes to your front door, but on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack did just that.
"Today, I was encouraged by the Secretary's comments," Brad Heffington, chairman of Plains Cotton Growers, said. "It's nice to have a secretary that's actually proactive in the process of getting a farm bill passed. The important thing is that we have to get a farm bill passed in the House so they can actually go to conference and work out differences, and get a new five-year agreement for our producers, and all the farmers and ranchers, and agribusiness across the country."
Roughly 214 local producers like Heffington showed up to listen to Vilsack discuss key issues regarding the Farm Bill. One of the most important topics that hit close to home was crop insurance, and the direction producers will see it go.
"Crop insurance right now is a very good tool, but with the cost of production that continues to go up every year, your margins are less than what the difference in insurance and it's payouts are on average," Heffington said.
Secretary Vilsack made the point that insurance is vital for every farmer because Mother Nature can cause everything from extreme drought to flooding.
"You can be the best farmer, you can be perfect, you can do everything right, you can plant at the right time, you can select the right seed, you can tend it just exactly properly, and in this business you can be perfect and end up with absolutely nothing," Vilsack said.
Another issue facing all Americans is who will farm in the next generation. The average age of the American farmer is 55, so the responsibility to help pass on the tradition falls on the shoulders of the older generation.
"I've got a 21-year-old son that's going into farming, but people don't understand you have to be a accountant, marketer, a banker, a finance expert, personnel management, our operations keep getting larger," Heffington said. "If you took note of one of the comments he made, I think 33,000 producers make over 50 percent of production."
The current one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires Sept. 30 of this year, and our producers seemed pleased that Vilsack would take the time to visit with local farmers about legislation affecting years to come.
" I think the Secretary is doing us an excellent job," Dan Smith, with the Texas Farm Bureau, said. "He not only promotes and supports the agriculture industry, but also he has a deep concern or rural America and the rural way of life. I think he demonstrated that today, and the fact that he came all the way to Lubbock to promote the new Farm Bill, I think we're very lucky to have him and he's doing us a great job."
The next critical step in the process will be for the House to approve its bill. Then, both the Senate and House version will go to conference where a 2013 Farm Bill can be finalized.