Should Secretary Vilsack speak to the Farm Bureau?

You might be surprised to find out a member of President Biden’s cabinet was addressing an organization that opposes gay marriage, supports making English our official language, opposes the removal of certain monuments and supports voter identification requirements.

These are just a small sampling of the views held by the American Farm Bureau Federation, an organization that claims to speak for America’s farmers and ranchers. Today Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is speaking to the group during its annual convention, like most secretaries of agriculture have done in the past.

The Farm Bureau’s new “policy book” for 2022 has not yet been released, but the 2021 version contains many of the same retrograde, reactionary bromides as past versions.

Here are some highlights:

  • “A family should be defined as persons who are related by blood, marriage between male and female or legal adoption.”
  • “We support … English … established by law as the official language of the United States.”
  • “We oppose … arbitrary removal of statues and monuments of historical significance.”
  • “We oppose … identification of Native American Tribes as ‘Sovereign Nations.’”

You’d be right to think a group that claims to represent farmers would have views on farm policy, and its policy book contains plenty of proposals on everything from crop prices to pesticides.

But the Farm Bureau also adopts a position on everything from statehood for the District of Columbia (the organization opposes it) to voter identification requirements (supports), abortion (opposes), expansion of family medical leave (opposes), increases in the minimum wage (opposes) and gun controls (opposes).

It’s also worth noting that the same subsection of the Farm Bureau’s policy book that opposes “granting special privileges to those that participate in alternative lifestyles” also opposes “human cloning.” Both fall under the section on “family and moral responsibility.”

It’s worth asking: Should a member of the president’s cabinet be speaking to a group that espouses these views? Who is served by such a speech? The USDA? Or the Farm Bureau?

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