U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says one of his main priorities as head of USDA will be to address issues with farm income.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union’s convention Monday morning, Secretary Vilsack said farmers and ranchers throughout the country have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Vilsack noted that many of these same challenges were ongoing well before the pandemic began in early 2020.
“Recently I had the opportunity to review some information from the Department of Agriculture concerning farm income,” Vilsack said. “It was amazing to me that 89.6% of America’s farmers, ranchers and producers do not make a majority of their money from their farming operations. I can’t think of a more significant statistic than that to suggest and urge all of us to work on transforming our food system in the country, so that more farmers, producers and ranchers have a better chance of getting a majority of their income from their farming and ranching and producing operations.”
Vilsack says a key part of equation will be new market opportunities for U.S. farmers.
“The focus of the Biden USDA is going to be on new, more, better, and fair markets,” Vilsack said. “If we’re going to turn things around, it’s going to be necessary for us in agriculture to work creatively and innovatively to create new market opportunities, new sources of income, and new revenue streams for farmers so that they are not just solely dependent on the sale of commodities.”
Vilsack added climate offers a “tremendous” opportunity for the U.S. to create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers, specifically, carbon sequestration and the investment in new technologies that can convert agricultural waste into a variety of products such as chemicals, materials, fabrics, and fibers.