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Youth News

USDAs No. 2 Man Steve Censky Inspires OK FFA Members to Stay the Course, Believe in Agriculture

Tue, 01 May 2018 16:15:56 CDT

USDAs No. 2 Man Steve Censky Inspires OK FFA Members to Stay the Course, Believe in Agriculture A former FFA member himself, Steve Censky, now deputy secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, is taking time out of his schedule this week to meet with FFA members during the Oklahoma FFA State Convention in Oklahoma City. In a conversation with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, Tuesday, Censky said he and the department fully understand the importance of the FFA Organization as a training ground for future leaders of the agriculture industry. According to him, his message to members this week will be to simply continue down the path they are already on as leaders within their communities as well as the industry and to take advantage of every opportunity to help them succeed professionally, be it on the farm or in any one of the many roles agriculture has to offer.

Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.

Among the many topics touched on in their conversation, Censky addressed some of the ongoing concerns of producers regarding the Renewable Fuels Standard which has drawn much attention lately, as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's excessive issuance of waivers to refiners has come into question. Although not directly involved in those related policy measures, Censky talked about how the USDA is working behind the scenes to ensure the interests of producers involved in providing biofuel resources are being mindfully protected.

"We've been working with EPA to try to make sure that it is implemented as Congress intended and as the President has directed," Censky said. "We've been concerned about the large number of waivers that have been granted by the EPA that have effectively reduced the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuels Standard quite considerably. The Renewable Fuels Standard as a source of demand for agriculture products is so important."

Censky says the RFS is all the more important as a domestic source of demand, given that uncertainty surrounds the international marketplace right now with China's threats of imposing tariffs, the renegotiation of major trade agreements like NAFTA and other matters of trade all contributing the turbulence of today's business climate. Censky asserts that with current commodity prices suppressed nearly 50 percent and the rural economy under tremendous pressure, trade and international access is of the highest priority for the industry as it tries to reverse its present situation.

"Farmers really depend on those outside markets and while we understand some of the need to make sure we're addressing the unfair trade practices of some of the other countries," he said, "we want to make sure farmers and ranchers aren't bearing the brunt."

Particular attention from the USDA is being given at the moment to helping sorghum producers who face challenges from their historically largest consumer, China, which has implemented very high punitive tariffs on their product in retaliation on alleged dumping charges.

"We're keeping our cards pretty close to our chest," Censky says about USDA efforts to help sorghum producers navigate this development in a way that does not signal to the Chinese or other nations about their legal strategy moving forward.

Censky also made mention of his expectations for the next Farm Bill, currently under construction. Some revamping of programs under the Conservation Title have been hinted at including the merging of the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. Censky says while that process will be a tedious one, the purpose behind it is to improve the customer experience for those that utilize the program, adding that the department is always open to simplifying things where possible. Overall, though, he is focused on supporting Congress as it works to flesh out the final draft, which he hopes will be reflective of a list of principles outlined recently by USDA.

"I think we're going to see a lot of action," he said. "Our hope is certainly that Congress can develop a bipartisan Farm Bill that can have the support and can be signed by the President."



Listen to USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky speak with Ron Hays during the OK FFA Convention
right-click to download mp3


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