A Bid Deal
The Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins, Colo. had a dramatic increase in cowboy hats and farmer caps last weekend for the USDA/DOJ workshop. During lunch I heard a couple students question what all the old guys in cowboy hats were doing there. They obviously didn’t realize those men were meeting to discuss topics with impacts on the very plates of food they were carrying.
It isn’t every day the Secretary of Agriculture shows up in Fort Collins with an agenda designed to listen to individual producers about the impacts of government regulations on their operations, and people showed up to talk. Attendance overflowed the main ballroom, and many had to watch the proceedings from adjoining rooms.
The fact that so many in attendance were “old guys in cowboy hats” was a topic of concern to many, including Secretary Vilsack. He asked several members of multiple panels what could be done to increase the number of young people returning to the farm or ranch.
The average age of the people on the panels was probably between 45 and 50. They were a very intelligent group of individuals who brought up the death tax, land cost, increased regulations, dying rural communities and the inability to break even most years, let alone make a start in the industry as reasons for young people not returning to ag.
I couldn’t help but notice the government was asking a group separate from their target for answers on this particular issue, and it was a familiar feeling. How easy would it have been to get a quality, core group of young agriculturalists from Colorado, and Wyoming and the surrounding area to form a panel to discuss what was a major topic of the day?
The government’s practice of asking answers from a group other than the one directly involved in an issue is arguably the reason behind many of the workshop topics. But, those in attendance realized that the government was also taking the time to hear about it from their perspective that day, and they graciously provided input through panel discussions and individual comments.
Panelists included a number of cattle ranchers, hog producers, sheep producers, feeders, ag attorneys and others. Individual comments came from people across the country who are involved in the industry in a plethora of ways. There were those for and those against the GIPSA rule, and others asked for more, or less, government regulation. Many commented that changes in the packing industry are necessary.
Regardless of the obvious differences in our diverse industry, almost everyone was polite and noted the common dislike for so many current or proposed regulations is because they always have a negative impact on someone. As person after person approached the microphone, Secretary Vilsack heard how the GIPSA rule would potentially put one producer out of business, but make the next much more financially secure. How the wording in one regulation would give one producer access to premiums, but require another to completely restructure his operation to stay in business.
People showed up to give face and voice to agriculture, grateful and hopeful for the chance to help create positive change. Time will tell how closely Secretary Vilsack listened.