Secretary of Agriculture spoke to a group of over 1,500 farmers and ranchers at Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla., this morning. He championed America's farmers for their willingness to conserve and be sustainable as well as their efforts to build rural America.

Vilsack also talked about the need for a new farm bill and the impacts of the sequester on the USDA and the programs it provides, ultimately trickling down to the farmer. 

Here are some highlights and excerpts from his speech.

  • We not only feed the rest of the world but we create job opportunities here. Not only a good provider but a job creator.
  • We appreciate farmer willingness to be best stewards of land and water. Most of energy country uses comes from rural America.
  • Allowed us to reduce reliance in foreign oil to lowest in decade.
  • Farmers have made us a stronger and more secure nation.
  • Despite worst drought since 30s, still had 5th largest corn crop in history. Because we embrace technology.
  • If we do better job of collecting data could have better forecasting opportunity.
  • Investments must be taken to improve water storage quality and transportation. 
  • Drought was a wakeup call to make sure we understand impact of changing climate.
  • We've got to think about ways to help you mitigate consequences of weather extremes, new pests diseases. 
  • Folks in Washington finally realize that ag research has been ignored. Interested in developing new products from that research.
  • Power of ag research: solving problems for producers and creating jobs.
  • Additional research on multi cropping and cover crops. Reduce barriers in crop insurance for cover crops.
  • Unlimited opportunity represented by farmers to create new industries that haven't existed before to help rebuild rural areas and redefine industry. Make our country stronger and more secure.
  • All of the work depends on congress giving us a farm bill-one that creates a strong safety net to ensue protection. 
  • Paid out nearly 14.7 billion in indemnity payments. Crop insurance will pay out more than it took in.
  • Bill must continue commitment to conservation but be flexible to meet needs of producers. 
  • Need a budget before we can get to a farm bill.
  • Because of sequester USDA operating budget will be reduced by $1-1.5 billion.
  • $34-35 million fewer credit dollars available after today for Farmers after sequester signed.