Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the location and date for the first USDA farm bill listening session. The Farm Bill Forum will be held at RFD-TV's Northstar Studios in Nashville, July 7.

The Nashville event will mark the secretary's second trip to Tennessee to discuss farm policy issues. The first came on May 4 when he met with a group of west Tennessee producers at the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's Cotton Division offices in Memphis.

“The next farm bill will affect America's entire agricultural community,” said Johanns, who announced in April that USDA would conduct a series of town hall meetings on the new farm bill Congress is expected to write in 2007. “That's why I want to ask America's farmers and ranchers how our farm policy is working and how we can make it better.

“I believe very strongly they deserve a voice in this process.”

The Nashville Farm Bill Forum will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. CDT. The public is invited to attend and participate in the forum, which will be broadcast live on RFD-TV. Besides questions from audience, the forum will accept calls from across the nation.

Johanns announced the listening session in a speech to the state convention of the Illinois Future Farmers of America in Springfield, Ill. He indicated the Nashville meeting would be the first of several to be held in 2005.

“I do not begin this process with preconceived notions about the direction future farm policy should take,” he said in his Springfield speech. “We will use the feedback we receive to help us determine the best course for a new farm bill.”