The USDA Will Focus on Climate Change, Improved Markets And Covid Relief Funds Said USDA Chief Tom Vilsack During Commodity Classic SpeechFri, 05 Mar 2021 16:15:16 CST
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack closed out the annual Commodity Classic with his virtual keynote address Friday, emphasizing climate change policies, Covid relief funds and foreign and domestic markets.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for farmers and ranchers, Vilsack said.
With a nod to his first time as USDA chief, Vilsack said things will be a little different during round two.
It is a different time and I am a different person this time around, he said.
The USDA is committed to making sure the ag industry gets its share of Covid relief funds
He noted 89.6 percent of American farm families depend on off-farm income.
The focus for the next four years is going to be on markets, he said.
Almost one-third of what is grown and produced here is exported and we need to do a better job of promoting our products overseas, Vilsack said.
Vilsack said they are constantly looking for new markets and right now they are in discussion with the UK and the European Union on trade agreements.
China is a complicated relationship and we are always working with other federal agencies to improve trade, he said.
We are doing everything we can to guarantee price transparency, fair and competitive markets, Vilsack said.
He also said they are working on expanding domestic meat processing facilities.
Climate change policies will focus on providing carbon capture markets for farmers, he said.
We will provide incentives for farmers to continue to use many of the same practices they have been using, Vilsack said.
Vilsack said they will work to expand the USDA workforce in key areas to provide critical services to farmers.
During a Q and A session moderated by NAFB President Gale Cunningham, Vilsack pledged support for renewable fuels and said it is unlikely we will see a high number of electric vehicles significantly impact the near-term future of renewable fuels.
A question from the virtual audience asked what Vilsack wants in the next farm bill and he said it would be good to focus on climate smart agriculture including a carbon bank.
Infrastructure initiatives are in the works, Vilsack said.
There is a significant need for investing large sums of money to rebuild our systems, Vilsack said.
If we are going to be serious about precision agriculture, we must have broadband, he said.
There is also talks about a green infrastructure to capture methane and sequestering carbon, Vilsack said.
Regarding Covid relief funds for agriculture and cattle producers specifically, Vilsack said they are continuing to look at all the needs but added it will be difficult to meet all the needs.
The USDA chief said he wants to work closely with the EPA and other federal agencies to make sure the ag perspective is clearly understood.
The last question focused on filling key USDA roles, especially in the FSA.
We’re trying to address the vacancy rate as quickly as we can, Vilsack said.
To hear more of Vilsack’s comments, click on the listen bar below.
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