The agriculture industry is well aware that there are challenges ahead in 2011 but Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack notes there are reasons for optimism, too:
“2010 was a good year with average farm income increasing by 34% over 2009, a very large increase, and part of that fueled by the fact that we’re seeing record exports of agricultural products and I think that’s going to continue. We’re going to continue to see strong markets from an export standpoint, our brand is good and solid. We’re doing a good job of promoting American commodities across the board in all parts of the globe.”
Ag groups are already starting to look ahead to 2012 and the writing of the next farm bill. Vilsack says there are budget challenges to address and says USDA is already taking steps to deal with that challenge. He says it’s important to acknowledge the work that’s already been done in the area of agriculture, pointing to crop insurance reform - where billions of dollars in savings were identified and directed to deficit reduction:
“We have already begun looking for creative ways to respond to the genuine concern the President raised in the State of the Union address which is that we, as a country, have to be serious about deficit reduction. I think everyone I’ve talked to, both republicans and democrats who are interested and involve in agriculture think we need a strong safety net for farmers, I though it was interesting at the Farm Bureau convention in Atlanta that the conversation was ‘what does that safety net look like?’ is it a situation where farmers get paid every year regardless of how good or bad the year is, or is it a situation where farmers get significant help in the years when things are little tough."
No matter what - Vilsack says having a safety net is non-negotiable. He says a solid safety net is a must…
“You find your priorities, not withstanding the fact that you may not be able to do every thing you’d like to do. And there may be limitations or restrictions that impact and affect some. But, at the end of the day you have to have a safety net because of the lack of predictability of weather, markets, pests, invasive species, and so forth, which makes agriculture a very difficult business to be in.”