This week's column by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack:
On March 19, USDA joined millions of Americans in celebrating National Agriculture Day.
National Agriculture Day provides an important opportunity each year to say “Thank You” to America’s farmers, ranchers and growers. It’s a time to recognize their productivity and to celebrate their abilities.
Their work has real impacts for every American. Our abundant food supply means that we spend a lower portion of our income on food than the people of any other developed nation. Meanwhile, America’s agricultural exports support more than one million jobs here at home.
As we celebrate their achievements, it’s important for all of us to understand the uncertainty faced by our farmers, ranchers and growers. In the past year, they have endured the worst drought in generations – putting an extra strain on farmers, and raising input costs for livestock and dairy producers. The drought continues to impact many areas of the nation today.
Unfortunately, Washington has only added to this uncertainty. Congress has failed to provide a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Additionally, as a result of the sequester, budget cuts will reduce funding across the board for services that USDA provides to farmers, ranchers and rural Americans.
Even in the face of these challenges, our agriculture sector has achieved great things. Thanks to the willingness of our producers to innovate and embrace new methods, production has remained strong even in the face of drought and other challenges. We’ve had the four strongest years for agricultural exports in history, with more than $478 billion in exports from 2009-2012. This year, American agriculture is projected to set another new export record.
At USDA, we’re proud to support America’s farmers and ranchers. We don’t just owe them our gratitude. We owe them dependable, modern service, which is even more important during these uncertain times.
That’s why we’ve been working hard for years to make improvements, to streamline operations and to find budget efficiencies. In recent years, we have achieved more than $700 million in targeted, common-sense savings. These efforts put us in a better position to support agriculture and strengthen the economy in rural America.
As we recognize and celebrate American agriculture this week, I want to give special recognition to the resilience and commitment of the greatest farmers and ranchers on earth. USDA will continue to do all we can to support their work.