He says he realizes USDA will have to accept budget cuts, which he hopes will be proportional to those from other departments. The agency meanwhile is working to become more efficient and leverage resources with the private sector.
In the agricultural sector, Vilsack says, we currently are seeing record farm income, record participation in conservation, record growth in bio-based products, record agricultural exports and record expansion of local and regional food systems. “We want to see that progress continue,” he adds.
The President favors continuation of the renewable fuel standard (RFS), and Vilsack notes the renewable fuels industry currently employs 400,000 people. Once the RFS reaches its goal of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels annually, the industry will employ close to a million workers. Renewable fuels, and other forms of renewable energy such as wind provide great income opportunities farm families, he says, adding the administration favors additional research effort to develop new feedstock sources for biofuels. Vilsack noted that while Governor Romney favors continuation of the RFA, he wants to discontinue the wind-energy tax credit, which would cost a lot of jobs in rural America.
Adams asked Vilsack whether he would stay on as Agriculture Secretary in a second Obama Administration. He refused to speculate, but said the President deserves another opportunity to continue his work, “and if I can be of help to him I will in any capacity.”
Later today, we’ll summarize a similar interview with Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of Farmers for Romney, making his case for the election of Republican challenger Mitt Romney on the same issues.