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Agriculture secretary urges Congress to aid farmers amid drought

July 18, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks about the drought during a news briefing at the White House.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks about the drought during a news… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- The heavens may be able to help American farmers hurt by the summer drought, the Obama administration’s top agriculture official said Wednesday, but he’d rather put the onus on Congress.

“I get on my knees every day, and I’m saying an extra prayer now,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a White House briefing. “If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.”  

“But honestly, right now the focus needs to be on working with Congress.”

During the afternoon briefing at the White House, Vilsack called on Congress to act quickly to help farmers. Lawmakers could vote to extend expiring disaster programs, he said, and step up aid by passing food, farm and jobs measures.

Long term, many climate experts believe this summer’s dry spell is a foretaste of the kinds of changes that global warming may cause, meaning bigger problems to come.

For now, though, the focus on lawmakers fits into the administration’s favored political strategy of running against a “do-nothing Congress.” Vilsack is no stranger to political contests. He’s the former Democratic governor of Iowa, and his wife, Christie, is the Democratic candidate for Congress in a hotly contested seat in central Iowa.  

 “We’ll do everything we possibly can to help folks,” Vilsack said, adding that “we’re obviously going to need some help working with Congress.”

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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