Just what's hot at USDA? Given the questions asked and answered during a Twitter chat on Monday, biofuels, research and food safety were top of mind for site visitors. Vilsack didn't shy away from some questions geared to be controversial. For example, a question about "private" research was met with the response that all research is subject to scrutiny and public comment.
And Vilsack tackled the challenge of making rural America more relevant, referring to a recent speech where he said non-urban folks may be losing their voice. Based on an added comment he made, Vilsack may be doing more on that issue. Here's the rundown on questions asked and answered during the 45-minute session:
Q1: RT @nationalffa: What are some of the fastest growing careers in Ag? How can students prepare for careers? #AskUSDA
Good Q! There are local and regional food system opps. Biobased product markets that are within the realm of ag and so much more #AskUSDA
Q2: RT @fuelsamerica: What sort of opportunities for rural America are you seeing with innovation in #renewable fuel? #AskUSDA
A2 Opp to move away frm food related feedstocks to non-food feedstocks. Algae, perennial grasses, woody biomass & landfill waste. #AskUSDA
Q3: From Silvia via email: As beg. organic frmr I’m having a hard time making ends meet. What resources are immediately avail to me #AskUSDA
A3 Check out the KYF2 compass! #AskUSDA http://t.co/NYUGy5XR
Q4: RT @kellynyfb: @USDA How does the Secretary suggest rural communities get more involved in rural policy & passing a Farm Bill? #AskUSDA
A4. Contact the Speak of the House on that one. #AskUSDA
Q5: RT @darst2013: @USDA where do u think that agriculture/farming will be in 20 years #AskUSDA
A5. Expect to see a significant expansion of local and regional food systems & growing domestic markets for biobased products. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q6: RT PaulWinters: Thanks @USDA for #askUSDA opp. How much economic opportunity does #RFS provide rural America?
A6. Decent prices for producers, & 400k much needed #jobs. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q7: RT GrowthEnergy: Q for #askUSDA: Can you touch on the imptce of the #ethanol coproduct #DDGs, a high protein livestock feed.
A7. More efficient feed & significant export opportunities. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q8: RT joostdubois: Will #Congress renew #FarmBill energy title to create jobs in rural US? #askUSDA
A8. If the House follows the Senate lead, #energy title will be strengthened and #jobs created. ^TJV #AskUSDA #FarmBill
Q 9: RT @LathamSeeds: #Vilsack said there's disconnect btwn consumers & farmers. Agreed! How can @USDA bridge communications gap? #AskUSDA
A9. By continuing support for local & regional food systems & reminding consumers of choice & affordability of what we consume ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q10: RT: @jsadlowe: What is the @USDA strategy for supporting urban agriculture? #AskUSDA
A10 Significant expansion and support for farmers markets and addtl research w/ land grant universities. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q11: [email protected]_PI: What role does US #agriculture R&D play in addressing global food security? #AskUSDA
A11 Research tied directly to productivity gains & most efficient use of scarce water resources. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q 12: RT @stophunger: @USDA Vilsack: Could u talk abt hunger in rural America & y protecting funding for SNAP in farm bill is imp? #AskUSDA
A12 17M American children in food insecure homes SNAP helps extend limited family income. Need to protect integrity. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q13: RT @ncl_wagetheft: If poultry plant workers are already injured at 140 birds per min, what will happen at 175? #AskUSDA #poultryrule
A13 Food safety & worker safety don't need to conflict. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q14: RT @farmforward: How is @USDA supporting small farmers and helping to increase reliable access to humane slaughter methods? #AskUSDA
A14 Increasing local markets & supporting mobile slaughter units. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q15: RT @organicdarla: Policy Plate: Lawmakers Could Look to Farm Bill for $100 Billion in Savings ow.ly/g57Wn via @ewgtoxics...
A15 That number would damage safety net for farmers, rural communities, the environment, and struggling families ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q 16:RT @cinnamaldehyde: Concerned abt the corporately-sponsored science used to make policy decisions. Where are indep reviews? #AskUSDA
A16. I don't accept the premise of the Q, but rule making requires notice and comment and it's taken seriously. ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q 17: RT @pesticideaction: Will you protect farmer livelihoods & reject new herbicide-resistant seeds from @MonsantoCo @DowAgroAg?
A17. We'll continue to enforce the plant protection act. EPA also engaged in this space. Will cont to support diversity in #ag ^TJV #AskUSDA
Q18: RT @farmgirljen: @USDA what can rural America do 2stop marginalization Sec. Vilseck mentioned on @AgDayAnchor last week? #askUSDA
A18 Suggestions included in ag forum speech ow.ly/gaOXK ^TJV #AskUSDA
A18-continued: We'll discuss over the next several wks further thoughts to create a new appreciation of #rural America. Thanks for your participation ^TJV
Q19: RT @ncl_tweets: If food safety is the goal, why not mandate training of plant employees rplcing inspectors in nw #PoultryRule? #AskUSDA
A19 Employees looking for defects nt #foodsafety risks. Inspectors looking for more comp. review of procedures. Identifying hazards #AskUSDA
You can follow USDA on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/USDA.