Secretary Tom Vilsack’s talk started with recognition that he has been asked to stay on with President Obama’s second term.
Vilsack, a card carrying member of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said the challenges of the drought and navigation on the Mississippi River may not be understood to the general public, but farmers and others get it.
He said there are efforts to improve weather forecasting, to provide more research into climate change impacts and other long-term challenges.
A key point from the drought was the resilience of American farmers who adapt and adopt technology, Vilsack pointed out. The risk management efforts in place were critical and he was disappointed in the lack of a Farm Bill.
Vilsack says there was potential for reform, and the opportunity went passed. “we are disappointed that you all were not given the certainty that a five year program can do,” he said. There will be opportunities to opt-in or opt-out.
He assured the members that the Ag department continues to push for a five year bill. With the rural economy and momentum there, it was especially difficult.
His statement “We need a five year bill and we need it now” was met with applause.
Although it can be tough to articulate the needs to the broader public, we have a responsibility to do so. And the benefits to the environment, to conservation and other areas are important to all of us.
The nutrition assistance program are also important safety nets. These programs provide for American families, Vilsack says. He says the support of them is important to get support for the bill in Congress.
Rural America provides food, fuel, millions of jobs and the military – distortion steely having the 16% of America that is rural, provide 40% of the military.
Rural America needs to find a way to connect and make people see how it is relevant to the masses, Vilsack says. One way to do that is to convey agriculture’s message. There are other connections to make like Chuck Hagel of Nebraska becoming secretary of defense. Understanding the bio based economy, he could reduce our military’s dependence on foreign oil. Same matters on treasury secretary.
Vilsack says agriculture has a stake in immigration reform. He says rural America needs to embrace diversity and discover common causes.
He understands how frustrating it is to be the best at what is done and not have people join the cause. We need to get more people involved not in consumption but in production which is what rural America does best.
Vilsack finished by thanking farmers and rural America for feeding his family, providing the economic benefits that are so common, for protecting the environment and for providing so many of the men and women to the military.
Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work in public affairs for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.