USDA Chief Makes Student Loan Appeal to FFA

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack got on the phone Monday with FFA students to discuss the need to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1st. The Obama administration and Congress agree student loan interest rates need to stay low – but they can’t agree on how to pay for it.

Vilsack told the FFA’ers the administration prefers the Senate’s approach to paying for it – closing tax loopholes – over the House’s desire to offset the extra spending by eliminating a preventative health program in President Obama’s health care overhaul…

“There are some concerns on the part of the administration and on the part of a lot of us that preventative health care should not be cut, particularly in rural areas where we are dealing with a health care system that has not favorably treated rural residents. We end up paying more out-of-pocket, we end up having poor results and less access, and preventative care becomes extraordinarly important to women in rural areas.”

Why is the USDA Secretary entering the student loan debate? According to Vilsack…

“For those that are interested in participating in production agricutlrue taking over Mom & Dad’s farm, or the grandparent’s farm, and being able to produce commodities that are needed in this country and around the world, we’re going to continue to have to have great researchers, who are going to be able to learn how to alter a seed, and farming practices so that we can continue to be as productive as we’ve been in the past and continue to increase our productivity. So, education is key to the success of production agriculture.”

He said that’s why the White House has increased the number of and monetary amounts of Pell Grants as well as supported improved access to less costly community colleges…

“It’s very, very important that as a country, even though we are dealing with tight fiscal circumstances that we do everything we can to make college affordable, community college available so that young people can get the skills, and the training and the education that they can use to revitalize this rural economy. This is an historic opportunity that this country has with good commodity, strong commodity prices, to revitalize the rural economy to provide new options and new alternatives for young people, to repopulate these rural areas, to maintain these small towns.”

Vilsack fielded questions from FFA members in Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio. He said the growing emphasis on science and math proficiency at the high school level should not be used as an excuse to phase out agricultural education courses. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.

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