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Published August 22, 2011, 05:04 AM

Getting the word out

WASHINGTON — Following up on President Obama’s statement to a farmer in Illinois that the farmer should “contact USDA” if he has concerns about proposed regulations, the Agriculture Department in Washington will provide USDA offices in the states and counties information on regulatory initiatives, a spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Aug. 19.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — Following up on President Obama’s statement to a farmer in Illinois that the farmer should “contact USDA” if he has concerns about proposed regulations, the Agriculture Department in Washington will provide USDA offices in the states and counties information on regulatory initiatives, a spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Aug. 19.

‘Greater certainty’

“We will be providing information to staff at state and local level,” Justin De Jong, Vilsack’s deputy communications director said in an email to Agweek. “These are items within EPA’s jurisdiction, but Secretary Vilsack and other USDA leaders have been active in communicating with those involved with agriculture to separate fact from fiction because the Administration is committed to minimizing regulatory burden and providing greater certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers.”

The statement came after a reporter from Politico, a Washington publication, called the USDA general number and found himself directed to the state of Illinois Agriculture Department and the Illinois Farm Bureau.

USDA has the most extensive network of offices around the country of any federal agency, with state Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources and Conservation Service and Rural Development offices in each states and offices in most counties. The Environ-

mental Protection Agency does have regional offices, but nothing close to the network of offices that USDA has.

At a forum in Atkinson, Ill., Obama told a farmer, “If you ever have a question as to whether we’re putting something in place that’s going to make it harder for you to farm, contact USDA. Talk to them directly. Find out what it is that you’re concerned about. My suspicion is a lot of times they’re going to be able to answer your questions and it will turn out that some of your fears are unfounded.”

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