Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and other leaders from the state's agriculture industry recently met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Atlanta.

Georgia Poultry Federation President Mike Giles, Georgia Cattleman's Association Executive Director Josh White, and Federation of Southern Cooperatives Executive Director Ralph Paige also attended the meeting, during which Vilsack expressed his disappointment that Congress had failed to pass a farm bill and stressed that there is still a need for farm programs.

"Anybody who thinks we don't need a safety net needs his head examined," said Vilsack, who talked about the budget implications for the Department.

"USDA is now operating at $1.1 billion below the level it had when I became secretary in 2009, and there are likely to be furloughs at local FSA offices."

During the discussion, Duvall requested the Secretary's help in getting farm labor programs administered by USDA instead of the Department of Labor. 

"We believe USDA would be more inclined to help farmers than DOL," Duvall said.

Vilsack was open to the idea, but said, "If we're going to have more responsibility, we've got to have the resources to do it."

Duvall also asked about the HSUS/UEP agreement regarding the federal regulation of layer hen cages. Vilsack made some favorable statements about the plan in January, and Duvall outlined GFB's reason for opposing the proposal.

GCA's Josh White echoed these points.

"We appreciate Secretary Vilsack having this meeting, and we are grateful to Commissioner Black for coordinating it," said Duvall. "We don't often get this kind of one-on-one conversation with the Secretary of Agriculture."

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