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.
Vilsack also addressed the relevance of rural America and apologized for the lack of action in Washington, asking farmers to raise their voices and be heard.
"I have to apologize to all of you. This is crazy. In a functioning democracy this shouldn't happen. Should recognize we have fiscal issues and need to address them. If everybody just gave a little we could get this done. In Washington, no one is listening to all of you. We're going to do our level best at USDA to do this equitably. We're going to have 3 basic principles: No one should get a break, try to do this in least disruptive way, need to care about those who work at USDA. This is my commitment to farmers. It's going to require a lot of thought and time - time not being spent on the things that are really important.
"Rural America is one of the most relevant sectors in America. Its political relevance is in question; their ability to get things done in Washington, because there are fewer and fewer rural folks and farmers. For us to be politically relevant and get farm bill done so you can do what you do best, we must figure out how to enlarge political relevance. We need to encourage engagement from other farm bill users; be strategically aligned, strategically align with nutrition."
In closing, Vilsack reminded growers that the younger generation is important and available to help agriculture.
"We need to have a proactive message to young people. Rural America can do it. If you want to remake American economy, that opportunity is in rural America. Kids are excited about opportunities. We need to move the message beyond difficulties and challenges. There are no better messengers than farmers, but the messages must be proactive. Extend reach of farming, ranching and producing. It's an American story.
“Stand up, say to leaders in Washington D.C.: forget about party, leaders, funders, campaign. Think about me, think about us. End the sequester. Get a budget. Get a farm bill. We'll do what we're great at doing; we'll feed the world. We will do our job, just do yours.”