Today over 600 people packed the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa to participate in the first ever USDA/DOJ workshop on competition issues in agriculture.
With FFA purple jackets helping direct the attendees (and selling boxed lunches), the hall was full nearly an hour before U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder began speaking to lead off the day.
The diverse audience included farmers and ranchers, union members, academics, representatives of both small and large businesses, lawmakers and federal officials, all eager to begin the series of 5 workshops that will be held over the next several months.
Many in the crowd expressed the opinion that this type of collaboration between USDA and DOJ was long overdue, and their appreciation that the Obama Administration was clearly taking their concerns about the market for agricultural products so seriously.
Once the program began, it became clear that AG Holder and Secretary Vilsack were not prejudging the results of these workshops, but were here to listen and engage in a discussion that would inform the efforts of both Departments over the coming months and years.
To underscore this point, Vilsack announced at the start of the second panel that public comments would be taken over the lunch hour to ensure that everyone had a chance to offer their comments. It is clear that the issues are complex, but there was agreement that having today’s discussion was a critically important step in the right direction.
Caleb Weaver, Press Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture