In recent days, Congressional leaders came together with an agreement to provide middle class tax relief and extend protection for two million unemployed Americans.
This agreement provides some relief for all of us who are frustrated with the gridlock that often dominates Washington. It is also good news for the 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses who were protected from a tax increase.
At the same time, I am disappointed that Congress was unable to pass a multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Congress did extend some 2008 Farm Bill programs that will prevent a spike in the price of dairy and other commodities. However, the extension fails to provide any of the long-term certainty that we know is vital for rural America.
At the start of this New Year, my New Year’s resolution is to redouble our efforts at USDA to achieve a strong and defensible safety net for producers in times of disaster; a comprehensive effort to build up the biobased economy; support for conservation efforts that are protecting our soil, water and forest land; increased resources for important agricultural research; and support for safer, more nutritious food for all Americans.
That’s why I will continue to work with Congress to encourage passage of a comprehensive, multi-year Food Farm and Jobs Bill. Such legislation will help us at USDA to carry out our mission, and provide more certainty for those in rural America.
Our small towns and rural communities are too important to be left out or let down. I look forward to continuing the effort to get this important work done without further delay.
An audio version of this column will be released on tonight’s USDA Radio Newsline at 5:00 p.m. EST.