U.S. Agriculture Secretary visits Mount Vernon
MOUNT VERNON — About 180 farmers and ranchers from throughout the state packed the auditorium at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Extension Center on Tuesday for a forum with U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
DelBene and Vilsack answered questions from WSU president Dan Bernardo for a half hour, then took questions from the audience for 45 minutes.
Questions revolved around the newly-passed farm bill — which DelBene helped shape — nutrition programs, wildfires and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
It was Vilsack's first time visiting Washington's first congressional district.
"The fact that we had as many people here today as we did is a reflection of the congresswoman's leadership and also a reflection of the amazing portfolio the Department of Agriculture has," Vilsack said.
Vilsack explained to farmers and ranchers how the new trade agreement — which is about 1,000 pages long — is good for the country's agriculture.
"As we begin a debate here in the country about trade, I think it's important I am here to answer questions to educate people about what the trade agreement will mean for agriculture," he said.
A point stressed by Vilsack was the importance of agriculture and how that importance is often lost on those in Congress. He said his department is usually one of the first to get cuts.
DelBene said the Skagit Valley was the perfect place for Vilsack to visit.
"We have incredible diversity of agriculture here from all the specialty crops, seeds farmers and floraculture," she said. "It is a priority in the Skagit Valley to make sure we have a strong agriculture community."