By Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Last week I had the privilege of attending President Obama’s State of the Union speech. In it, he laid out some of the challenges America faces moving forward as we compete with nations across the globe to win the future.
The President’s vision is simple. We need to be a nation that makes, creates and innovates so that we can expand the middle class and ensure that we pass along to our children the types of freedoms, opportunities and experiences that we have enjoyed.
At USDA, we share the Administration’s commitment to creating jobs and revitalizing our economy.
We are driving innovation, promoting the production of renewable energy, which is creating jobs in rural America, helping our environment and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. We are helping provide a better education for America’s children, making the most important changes to school meals in decades so that our kids will be at their best and ready to learn in class. We are building critical infrastructure, bringing access to high speed broadband internet to millions of rural Americans to help drive job creation and lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth.
USDA also shares the President’s belief that we need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century.
Last year we saved $6 billion through the negotiation of a new agreement for crop insurance, $4 billion of which will go to pay down the federal deficit. And agencies across the Department have looked for ways to reform the way they do business – from reducing the number of visits a farmer has to make to our offices to get conservation services, to saving millions in taxpayer dollars by operating our food assistance programs with historic levels of accuracy.
And American agriculture has embraced these same values for years. Our farmers and ranchers are problem solvers. Time and time again, they’ve adapted, embracing science and new technology that have allowed them to produce about twice as much per acre as their grandfathers did 50 years ago. Growers educate their children, build impressive operations. And – particularly in recent years – they have carried very little debt relative to the rest of the economy. These values are all part of why American agriculture has seen a strong and rapid rebound from the recession.
Last week, the President told us that winning the future will require a lot of hard work and sacrifice from everyone. But if our farmers and ranchers can do it – I know our nation can as well. Working together, we can build a foundation for American competiveness for years to come so that we pass on a stronger America to our children and grandchildren.