USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed attendees of the National Farmers Union's 112th anniversary convention in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday morning, providing comments on farm bill implementation and new federal programs aimed at small and mid-sized farmers.
Remarks on the farm bill led into discussion Monday afternoon regarding the groups' policy guidance.
"For more than two years the secretary has been almost singularly focused on getting a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill through a dysfunctional Congress to provide certainty for family farmers, ranchers and the food insecure," NFU President Roger Johnson said in a released statement. "It is refreshing to hear him instead be able to celebrate our hard-fought farm bill victories in a forward-looking address."
Vilsack also announced new and expanded efforts to connect small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers with agency resources that can help them build stronger businesses, expand to reach new and larger markets, and grow their operations.
"The recent Census of Agriculture shows that there is tremendous growth potential for small and mid-sized producers in the American agricultural landscape," said Vilsack. "USDA is taking a hard look at our existing resources to ensure that they work for producers of all sizes."
According to Vilsack, changes include policy adjustments, program reinforcements and a greater emphasis on outreach.
"The administration's efforts to reinvigorate family farmers in the shrinking middle will provide valuable resources to the family farmers and ranchers who most need education, credit and technical assistance and build the future of the rural economy," Johnson concluded.
Additional elements of USDA's expanded programs include cost-sharing for growing equipment like hoop houses, increased access to capital, and market information regarding local prices and volume of commodities like grass-fed beef.