Call it one of those blind-pig-finding-the-acorn moments, but comments made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a couple of weeks ago are downright positive. He was talking with cattle producers from across the nation on Sept. 15 as part of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Legislative Conference sponsored by Elanco.

Vilsack addressed the unprecedented environmental regulations on dust proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying, “I told her (EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson) you’ve got to get out and talk to producers. A lot of folks in this town have never been on a farm but assume they know the impact of regulations on ag. They really don’t know… They have to get out in the country. They have to visit farms and ranches to understand modern ag. They have to make decisions that make sense.”

Vilsack also addressed producer concerns about the Food and Drug Administration's draft guidance document, "The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals," as well as Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY) Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would phase out the use of some antibiotics in the livestock industry.

“I’ve communicated to Rep. Slaughter my support of the judicious use of antibiotics,” Vilsack says. “The vast majority of producers don't abuse the use of antibiotics in livestock production. I told her you can't ban this. It doesn’t make sense. USDA's public position is, and always has been, that antibiotics need to be used judiciously and we believe they already are.”

Cattle producers also expressed concerns about the lack of Congressional action that could allow the estate tax to revert back to pre-2001 levels, meaning farm estates worth more than $1 million would be taxed at a rate of 55% beginning Jan. 1.

“We have to make sure the vast majority of ag isn't impacted by the estate tax,” Vilsack says. “I believe that's the intent of Congress, although they haven’t done it yet. We will continue to push for that.”