Ag Outlook Forum: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gives Keynote Address
The first day of USDA’s Ag Outlook Forum included a closer look at markets, a conversation on trade with China, and an industry panel focused on climate smart production.
The pandemic, supply chain challenges, high input costs, avian influenza, and growing tension between Russia and Ukraine were a few of the problems U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the industry is facing, but he still remains positive.
“I think American agriculture is resilient. I believe it is innovative. And I believe American farmers, ranchers and producers are committed to a sustainable future. And for that reason, I believe that the outlook for agriculture is quite strong and positive.”
Vilsack says USDA is working to eliminate the negatives by supporting opportunities. As part of the forum, he announced an additional $215 million to expand capacity and competition for livestock producers.
“we’re excited about this opportunity. These resources can be used for construction, expansion of additional capacity and equipping additional capacity and we’re looking for projects that will also benefit a small size farming operations, looking for operations that will help new and beginning farmers applications that may focus on veteran owned farming operations, and other historically underserved producers. We want to make sure that everyone is able to participate in this new opportunity.”
The funds will also go towards technical assistance and workforce development, plus another $500 million will be rolled out this summer. Over the next several months, USDA will also begin the process of publishing changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act.
“We’re going to start with the poultry tournament system and making it fairer and more transparent. We’ll follow that with rules relating to discrimination and retaliation to provide protection for individual producers. And then we’ll end this process with a rule outlining our feelings or thoughts about undue preference. And it’s going to be an opportunity for us to send a strong message. Now that we’re there on the side of the producer that we want to make sure that the system is fair and balanced.”
Applications are also open for USDA’s climate smart partnership pilot program, which Vilsack says is a sign of the times.
“The market was sending the message to producers in the United States that production was valuable. And farmers in America responded. Extraordinary production, extraordinary innovation, extraordinary increases in production. Things changing though. It’s not just production. It’s also sustainability. And we need to be in a position to lead that change.”
Secretary Vilsack acknowledged the complexity and volume of all the USDA programs and said they are working to create a network of resources to help farmers and businesses navigate the system.
Vilsack addressed high fertilizer costs during his speech and says the department supports and announcement made today by several state attorney generals to investigate fertilizer prices to determine if they are justified.