Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday once again urged Congress to pass the farm bill and not change the Renewable Fuel Standard, while also making comments to reporters on a wide range of subjects including crop insurance, sugar and the future of the Farm Service Agency offices.
If Congress does change the RFS and doesn't pass the farm bill, it will have its priorities reversed, Vilsack told the Growth Energy Advocacy Conference.
"We believe (the RFS) is working," Vilsack told the organization of ethanol plant builders and managers, and he noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has used its authority to make adjustments to the program.
The secretary also said it is his personal opinion that "Big Oil" has been attacking the ethanol industry and the RFS because oil companies would like to buy ethanol production facilities "for 10 cents on the dollar."
Oil companies would continue to need ethanol for octane content even if the RFS were repealed.
Vilsack also prompted Growth Energy members to urge Congress to pass the farm bill, and repeated recent statements that another extension of the 2008 farm bill is not a good alternative.
"The biggest risk" in not acting, he said, is that members of Congress might be tempted to take the $4.9 billion in annual budget authority for direct payments and use it for deficit reduction or some other purpose outside the farm bill rather than for revamping the farm program.
Vilsack comments on other issues
* Crop insurance "has come under unfair criticism. Those who report on it don't understand it and its importance to the food supply." He said it's expensive to put a crop in the ground, and that a farmer could easily have half a million dollars at risk when "Mother Nature says you're not going to have rain for the next 90 days."
A farmer who gets a crop insurance doesn't get paid for 100 percent of his loss, he noted.
The general public doesn't approve of direct payments that crop farmers get whether prices are high or low, he said, but "I think we can make a strong case for crop insurance . and some program to supplement it."