As part of the new Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns' commitment to get out of the beltway and hear farmers' concerns, Johanns is looking to hold farm bill listening sessions across the country during the next year.
In an announcement that was made Monday before the National Farm Broadcasters Association, Johanns invited the entire farm community to be a part of the process in the Administration's goal of determining what farm policy priorities Congress should focus on for the next farm bill.
Johanns although there are many aspects of policy that affect farmers, main questions he hopes to gain feedback include:
- Are we doing enough to encourage the next generation of farmers?
- Are we fostering the right kind of atmosphere for farmers and ranchers that provide opportunities to succeed?
- What more we can do to expand the groundbreaking success seen in conservation programs that works with, not against, farmers?
USDA does not have any sessions scheduled at this time, but hopes to have some planned as soon this summer. Johanns adds that fairs and agriculture shows might be a potential venue for sessions. The sessions won't "just shoot the bull," Johanns explains. It really will focus on what is important and what's not important to rural America.
During the last writing of the farm bill, the Administration was criticized for not making a solid proposal for Congress to work from. Johanns says the goals of the listening sessions isn't to give Congress ultimatums, but "start building the debate from the people out there who live where the rubber meets the road."