Vilsack: Farm Bill will benefit Beaufort County

Published 9:55 pm Monday, June 10, 2013

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had plans to visit Plymouth last Friday. Stormy weather deterred the visit, but not Vilsack’s support of Domtar, Inc., the county’s new biofuel production company.
“North Carolina continues to be a leader in the development of fuel- and petroleum-based products,” Vilsack said in a phone interview Friday morning.
Domtar is working today with several partners, including the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, on development of ligninapplications – including for fuel additives, solid fuels and high performance adhesives.
The facility, made possible by Biomass Research and Development Initiative funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be the first of its type to open in the U.S. in more than 25 years.
“We’re excited about this because we’ve invested $7 million to help kick this thing off,” Vilsack said. “It’s a good program and it’s a terrific opportunity to produce woody substances to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
The USDA funds several research and development projects. This year, many of them have been related to bio fuel.
The 2013 farm bill will create a new non-profit foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, to support advances in agriculture.
“I think we’ve been the benefit of that research,” said Walt Gerard of Gerard Seed Company. “I think the research has helped us feed nine billion people. Research is critical.”
Vilsack said the farm bill was a research bill, a job bill, a housing bill, a rural bill and a utility bill. It includes improvements to crop insurance and programs that guarantee loans to start-up businesses and homeowners who want to live in rural areas.
Congress is looking to cut the USDA’s food assistance program.
“There is a dispute between the House and the Senate. The House is proposing a $20 billion reduction in that program,” Vilsack said.
The Senate passed the  Farm Bill Monday.
Vilsack said a reduction in food assistance like WIC, school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would also hurt rural grocery stores that depend on that income.
“It would basically eliminate support,” he said. “But, it would also reduce farm income by $3 billion because 15 cents of every dollar spent on groceries goes back to the farmer.”