Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited Texas Tech University, where he met with agriculture leaders about the need for Congressional action on a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, as well as a solution to fix America's broken immigration system. Later in the day, he toured an area farm to view drought impacts and discuss the importance of a strong farm safety net.
"I'm inspired by the innovation and productivity of America's farmers and ranchers, particularly folks who were hit hard by drought in recent years," said Vilsack. "They're getting the job done, and Washington owes them more certainty. That's why we need passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, along with a solution to fix our broken immigration system."
During the visit, the Secretary discussed the Obama Administration's comprehensive strategy to revitalize the rural economy in an effort to expand job creation and innovation. He also noted that a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would include important rural development programs, preserve a strong farm safety net, maintain nutrition programs, encourage the development of local and regional markets, and enhance the conservation efforts of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
The disaster assistance programs authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill provided more than $5.6 billion for U.S. producers impacted by natural disaster. More than $1.2 billion of that funding was provided to Texas producers, much of it to help during an historic drought that impacted the State in 2011. The authorization for those programs expired last year. While some programs contained in the 2008 Farm Bill were extended in January, the disaster programs have not been reauthorized.
"We have a responsibility to continue to create new opportunity in our small towns and rural communities," said Vilsack. "We will continue growing opportunity for agriculture by making smart investments to expand local and regional marketing, conservation initiatives and biobased product creation. But it all starts on America's farms - and we owe producers the certainty of a strong and defensible safety net."
Vilsack also discussed the Obama Administration's support for Congress to act this year on comprehensive immigration reform. The Secretary noted that America has the most productive agriculture sector on earth - but that today's broken immigration system leaves producers without a reliable source of farm labor. He said that comprehensive immigration reform would be good for farm workers, positive for businesses and ultimately a driving factor to improve the rural economy.