WyFB members hear from Vilsack at American Farm Bureau Federation convention
San Antonio, Texas – Wyoming Farm Bureau members attended the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in San Antonio, Texas, hearing from a variety of speakers about the next generation of agriculturalists.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the second general session of the convention, held on Jan. 13, emphasizing the importance of the farm bill and agriculture to the U.S.
“What is most important to American agriculture?” asked Vilsack. “That is the passage of a farm bill.”
Vilsack noted that the lack of a farm bill affects an incredible number of producers.
“Anyone who is purchasing any of the 536 different types of crop insurance understands the importance of the Farm Bill,” Vilsack said. “Any of the nearly 400,000 producers who have received disaster assistance before it was cancelled understand the importance of the bill.”
Additionally, export markets, credit titles and young producers all utilize the Farm Bill.
“Farmers and ranchers all understand it,” said Vilsack, speaking of the benefits of the Farm Bill, “It may be necessary for us to gain a wider audience who understands and appreciates what the Farm Bill does for all of us in this country.”
“We are a food secure nation that can satisfy all of its food needs based on extraordinary productivity of farmers in the U.S.,” said Vilsack. “Americans spend less on their food than other people in developed or developing countries.”
Vilsack further noted that nearly half of the land mass of the U.S. is impacted by farming and forestry, both of which are addressed in the Farm Bill.
Further, the Farm Bill impacts the water supplies that 180 million American depend on in the western U.S.
“Over half of our population linked to work being done on our working lands is linked to the availability of our water resources,” he continued. “Farming and agriculture represent five percent of the gross domestic product and is responsible for 10 percent of American jobs.”
Nearly 16 million American are employed as a result of farming and ranching, and 14 percent of jobs are related to processing and manufacturing of ag products.
“Agriculture is central to the American economy and assures our future as a secure and powerful nation,” Vilsack said. “For those reasons, every American should be concerned by the fact that we don’t have a farm bill.”
In addition to the nutrition titles in the Farm Bill, Vilsack says that every American benefits from the safety net in the Farm Bill.
“Farming is a risky business and can be an expensive business,” he said. “We ask farmers to advance our resources, put a crop in the ground and raise a herd, so our families can be well fed.”
Farmers, he continued, are asked to make a business decision – is the risk a reasonable risk?
“If we don’t have a revenue protection program, the risk in farming and ranching will become unreasonable, and people will begin to move out of the industry,” Vilsack said. “We would see more land be used to take care of cities and suburbs, and we will lose that security.”
Safety nets in the Farm Bill help to reduce risks of farming to a more reasonable level to allow agriculturalists to continue to produce.
Passing a bill
“We are preparing for the eventual passage of the Farm Bill,” said Vilsack. “I remain optimistic that this will be done.”
Recognizing the need for a disaster assistance program and insurance programs mean that as soon as a Farm Bill is passed, USDA must step into action to implement those programs.
“All of these initiatives will be a challenge, but we are up to the challenge,” Vilsack noted. “We are putting in teams to prioritize what needs to be done.”
“My final point is freedom,” Vilsack commented. “That is what agriculture means to this country.”
Agriculture, he noted, is more than food security.
“It is the extraordinary opportunity in this country that we can be whatever we want to be – not just by simply dreaming big dreams – but because we have someone, somewhere in a rural community who is producing enough so we have the nutrition to be whatever we want to be,” Vilsack said.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.