The U.S. Senate on Jan. 20 confirmed former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as the nation's new agriculture secretary under the new Obama administration.

Mr. Vilsack, on November 30, 2006, formally launched his candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination for President of the United States in the 2008 election, but ended his bid on February 23, 2007.

Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke offered these comments.

"As a governor of Iowa, one of the nation's most important agricultural states, Mr. Vilsack was a strong supporter of bio-fuels and the development of biotechnology," he said. "Both are extremely important to agriculture's future in this country."

The long-delayed mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling rule, which was published Jan. 15, was delayed again with a decision by President Obama to put a hold on all pending and last minute regulations of the Bush Administration.

Many other rules at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including an APHIS proposed rule on the official numbering system for the National Animal Identification that was published Jan. 13, along with several rules implementing new provisions in the 2008 farm bill, will also be delayed.

A White House memo from Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, asks each agency not to send any regulation to the Federal Register until it has been approved by an Obama appointee.

In other news, landowners, land managers, county managers and local volunteer firefighters interested in learning about prescribed burning and the South Texas Prescribed Burn Association will have an opportunity Feb. 2 at the Merchants Building at the Jim Wells County Fairgrounds in Alice.

The workshop will feature a wide array of speakers and topics that include prescribed burn planning from start to finish, laws covering prescribed burns, fire weather, smoke control, safety conditions, and the prescribed burn association. There will also be a demonstration prescribed burn at La Copita Ranch, if conditions allow.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the presentations will begin at 9 a.m. Registration is $10 and will include lunch. Seating is limited, so respond by Jan. 30 to Bruce Healy at 668-8361, Ext. 3, or Rogelio Mercado at 668-5705.

The use of prescribed burning or prescribed fire has been recognized for many decades as a primary management necessity in long-term sustainability of native rangeland. Prescribed burning is the use of fire to control undesirable dead vegetation buildup and reduce wildfire hazards.

Prescribed burning can also be used to prepare sites for herbicide application by removing dead plant litter blocking herbicide coverage on actively growing vegetation. Prescribed burning should be integrated with other practices such as herbicide management, grazing management and planting riparian herbaceous cover.

Farmers and ranchers attending the workshop will be exempted from the current Jim Wells County Burn Ban if they obtain, complete and follow a prescribed burn plan according to an approved NRCS or Texas AgriLife Extension Service prescribed burn plan. A list of the attendees will be provided to the Jim Wells County Commissioner's Court.

This course will offer three pesticide CEUs for your Restricted Use License, and four CEUs for SRM Certified Professionals in Rangeland Management.

Workshop sponsors include Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Jim Wells County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Alice.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.