St. Louis Public Radio News
6:33 pm
Fri August 21, 2009

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Mo.

Sedalia, MO – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack paid a visit to Missouri today.

He held a town hall meeting at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, just west of the fairgrounds. More than a hundred farmers and agricultural officials attended.

Vilsack conducted the meeting as an open forum, taking questions and comments on any ag-related topic. But more than one farmer asked about the cap-and-trade bill passed by the U.S. House earlier this year, expressing concern about how it would affect their fuel costs.

Among them was Matt Boatright, a farmer from Sedalia.

"It appears that there are certain segments in agriculture that really aren't going to have a way to participate in any of the offsets, and yet are going to have all the tax(es) associated with the incredible increase in the price of energy, whether it's electricity or gasoline," Boatright said.

Vilsack answered that there would be at least one benefit.

"In the first 7, 10 years of this effort, there should not be any increase in fertilizer costs as a result of this bill, because of the benefits that the industry will get from the bill," Vilsack said.

Vilsack conceded that fuel prices are expected to rise if the cap-and-trade bill becomes law.

But he says there is a chance that some type of financial offset would be added in to help farmers bear the higher costs.