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January 15, 2013

Vilsack Promotes the Importance of Rural America

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will remain in that job within the Obama administration’s second term. At the American Farm Bureau’s 94th Annual Meeting in Nashville he told members of the nation’s largest farm organization about some of his plans for USDA in the months ahead. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
Miller:Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told about 5,000 members of the American Farm Bureau Federation that 2012 was a tough year and he’s glad it’s over, but many of the events that made it difficult have a lingering impact on 2013. 
Vilsack:Of course it starts with the drought. Just last week I announced that 597 counties across the United States in 14 different states would be already declared disaster areas because they had been on the Drought Monitor for more than eight consecutive weeks. That means that those counties will have available to them disaster assistance from USDA as well as the SBA. But perhaps more importantly it’s a wake-up call for the rest of the country uh whose focus may have moved away from the drought of 2012. We want to make sure that people understand and appreciated that this may very well continue and it does have ramifications.
Miller:Those ramifications include low Mississippi River levels which affects transportation of many agricultural goods being shipped overseas. While addressing the Farm Bureau’s 94th annual meeting in Nashville, Vilsack said he took away two major points from the drought – the resiliency of farmers and ranchers and the importance of a farm safety net. 
Vilsack:Thank heavens we had a strong crop insurance program that provided help and assistance. The unfortunate circumstance is that we didn’t have a similar vehicle to assist our livestock and dairy producers who have gone through a very, very difficult time. 
Miller:Vilsack pointed out that would have been possible if Congress had passed a new farm bill to replace the one that expired in September.
Vilsack:We are committed and we know the Farm Bureau is committed to making sure that 2013 is not a repeat of 2012. We need a five-year bill and we need it now. That five-year bill must start with a commitment that we all agree is necessary, which is that we have a strong safety net built on a strong and viable crop insurance program, a safety net that is defensible and understandable and one that provides the help and assistance not just to crop producers, but also livestock and dairy producers.
Miller:Vilsack suggested to the crowd that rural America needs to strengthen its political clout despite a dwindling rural population by becoming the place to solve many of our nation’s problems, like reliance on foreign oil and eradicating hunger.
Vilsack:We can inspire young people, we can encourage young people; we can create opportunities for young people, not just on the farm, but in small towns all across this great country. We can bring people back. We can keep people. And in doing so we can create a message and a powerful message of the importance that rural America plays in the lives of every single American and then it becomes a little easier to explain to members of Congress from urban and suburban areas why a five-year bill is necessary and it becomes impossible for political leadership to stop its passage, because too many people want it, too many people need it and everybody understands the importance of it.
Miller:Reporting from the American Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting in Nashville. I'm Johnna Miller.
Miller:Newsline will be updated Sunday through Tuesday with new stories from our annual meeting in Nashville. Thank you for listening.

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