Leahy Raises MILC, Organic, Rural Broadband Issues in Meeting with USDA Nominee Vilsack

(WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7) -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday raised several issues that are front and center to Vermont’s farmers and rural communities in a meeting with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), President-elect Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Vilsack visited Leahy in advance of next week’s Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearings on his nomination. Leahy is the panel’s most senior senator of either party and is a former chairman of the committee.

With milk prices now in a steep slump, Leahy said he is satisfied with Vilsack’s assurances about his support for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program.  Other issues raised by Leahy include implementation of the Regional Equity provisions Leahy included in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, which assure greater program support to smaller states like Vermont; transition help for farmers who want to shift to organic productions; and the importance of loan guarantees to expand availability of broadband service in rural areas. Leahy has suggested broadband funding to President-elect Obama for inclusion in the forthcoming economic stimulus package, and he is the “father” of the national organic standards and labeling program.

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