“The safest bet in America is American agriculture!” That’s the way Secretary Tom Vilsack led off his remarks to the 2,000 farmers, ranchers, agriculture officials and industry leaders in attendance at today’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Referring to statistics detailed a short time earlier by USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber, the Secretary pledged to continue to aggressively promote the export of American agricultural products. He said trade will help create American jobs – especially in the agriculture sector. Especially important, said the Secretary, are growing economies like those in Indonesia and Vietnam, both of which the Secretary is scheduled to visit later in the year. The Secretary also noted that American farmers have tremendous opportunities represented by the growth of biobased products and biofuels. And he told the audience that American agricultural producers deserve our utmost respect and appreciation, for continuing to produce food that costs the average American consumer less than 10 percent of his or her paycheck.
The Secretary was preceded by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, who discussed the upcoming Farm Bill. The Senator noted that agriculture is very important to Michigan’s economy, second only to California in crop diversity. Agriculture in Michigan, she said, represents one in four jobs which is why she thinks of the next farm bill as “a jobs bill.”
Following the Senator and the Secretary, Former President Bill Clinton began with stories about his childhood in rural, agriculture-centered Arkansas and then talked about the central role that agriculture plays in solving the issues facing the world’s population. “We’re living in a highly complicated environment,” the former President said. He went on to note that a billion people go to bed hungry every night, while in urban areas of developing countries there is an increasing problem of obesity and diabetes. Noting that no country ever moved ahead without first developing a strong agricultural base, he spoke of efforts in Africa to pull people out of poverty through rural development and education. The former President also noted the importance of elevating the status of women in developing countries, educating them, and giving them job opportunities. He said that agriculture will be at the “vortex” of major global issues.
The forum continues through tomorrow. For more information click here.