Vilsack: Enhancing American agriculture

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This week reminded us that American agriculture continues to be a bright spot in our nation’s economy.  Following strong numbers last year, we learned that farm income is up again in 2011 – with a 28 percent increase in net income.  Our farm exports this year hit a new record high of $137 billion.

This is making a real difference for America’s farm families, whose household income was up 3 percent in 2010 and is forecast to grow again this year.

To continue this growth, USDA supports farmers and ranchers with a strong safety net, by promoting bio-based product opportunities and local and regional food systems.  We are also helping expand export markets.  Recently, President Obama signed new trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that should generate an additional $2.3 billion in exports next year alone for America’s farmers and ranchers.  They will help support and create thousands of jobs here at home.

But we want to be the most effective partner possible for America’s farmers, ranchers and producers.  So recently, we’ve taken steps to streamline our programs to help support the strength of American agriculture and drive economic growth.

When I came to office, it took about 3 months after a natural disaster for USDA to make a Secretarial Disaster Designation.  That is 3 months when producers didn’t know whether they could access emergency loans or other disaster assistance.  So we have cut down this process from 6 steps to 2 so it will take less than a month to come to a decision.

For years, farmers and ranchers participating in USDA programs have been asked to report acreage and crop data on as many as 70 different dates each year.  We thought that was too many reports for America’s producers to worry about.  So we just announced a change to streamline our reporting requirements so farmers can file their reports fewer times throughout the year.  This makes it easier for producers and saves operating costs for USDA. 

Other recent changes will help agricultural businesses respond more quickly to market demands, speed up our product licensing and help our customers create jobs.

President Obama challenged the federal government to streamline operations, and USDA is taking big steps to answer that challenge.  Moving forward, we’ll continue to strengthen American agriculture by accelerating delivery, modernizing our services and improving the customer experience.



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