WASHINGTON D.C. (KELO-AM) U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today questioned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015. During the hearing they discussed payment limitations, the status of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), the Sun Grant Initiative at South Dakota State University, and implementation of the livestock disaster assistance programs.
Johnson questioned Secretary Vilsack about the Department’s efforts to inform producers about the availability of livestock disaster assistance programs as well as about the information that will be required for payment eligibility. Vilsack previously announced April 15, 2014 as the beginning of the sign-up period for the livestock disaster programs included in the 2014 farm bill. Johnson fought to include these programs, citing South Dakota’s unique need for disaster assistance as a result of the terrible Atlas blizzard last fall.
The livestock disaster assistance program was renewed in the recently passed farm bill after expiring September 30, 2011. Producers will be able to sign up for the livestock disaster programs for losses experienced dating back to October 1, 2011.
Johnson also asked Secretary Vilsack about the status of the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program, which is currently being reviewed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a result of complaints from Canada and Mexico.
Johnson spearheaded the effort to maintain the current COOL program in the final farm bill. COOL has served as a key tool for ranchers to market their products and for consumers to have access to information about the source of their food.
In addition to discussing the importance of expediting disaster aid as well the importance of COOL, Johnson also highlighted the need for ensuring that our farm programs are targeted to family farmers as well as the important work being done at South Dakota State University through the Sun Grant Initiative.