In a speech to farmers and ranchers this past weekend, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stood on the side of his political party and declared rural America irrelevant. The man who is supposed to be the voice and representative of the farming community in Washington D.C. did not support his constituent base but instead declared them out of touch and more easily overlooked than ever before.
“Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” Vilsack said during his presentation in Iowa. “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.”
It’s no secrete that much of the agriculture community stands on the other side of the political fence from Vilsack and the Obama administration. Many of agriculture’s recent efforts, including stopping the EPA from regulating dust and the labor department from preventing children from working on the farm, were criticized. So too are framers request to have less government intervention and more meat and whole grains on children’s lunch plates. Vilsack said the farming community’s opposition to those proposed regulations and others sends the wrong message to the rest of America.
Yes, rural America often votes different from the nation’s large cities. But this country was built on the ability to elect representatives that reflect your own views and opinions – that, my friends, is the heart of democracy. If we lose our right to our own – and differing – opinion then we lose what makes America truly great.
Now I don’t know about Mr. Vilsack, but I was always taught that different is not wrong, it’s simply different. Just because I don’t agree with someone does not mean I have the right to make fun of their thoughts and ideas. The fact that Vilsack takes to the stage and insults the efforts of the farmers and ranchers sitting in the room makes me question who he really is representing – us, the farmer or Vilsack’s political party?
Yes, we all need to find a point of compromise and give a little every now and then, telling farmers and ranchers to abandon their political views is not the message Vilsack should be sending. It’s not only insulting but it’s not productive. It’s simply more Washington rhetoric that does little to move forward the conversation.
As long as rural America controls the food, fuel and fiber that this country has come to depend on, we will not be irrelevant. Our shrinking population will decrease our representation in Washington but we won’t back down on our views and we certainly will not change our opinions because it differs from the current administration.
Farmers have always been known as a stubborn bunch and I have a feeling most have no intentions on budging – no matter how many insults Vilsack throws our way.