Vilsack on Preliminary Census Results

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture provide a snapshot of a strong rural American that has remained stable during difficult economic times. He notes the loss of farmland has been slowed significantly and new tools provided in the 2014 Farm Bill will help further slow and reverse the trend. Vilsack says the data also confirm farm income is at a record high - but that the prolonged drought and lack of disaster assistance have made it more difficult for livestock producers and mid-sized farms to survive. The farm bill - he says - guarantees disaster assistance and provides additional stability for farmers and ranchers. A bright spot in the data - according to Vilsack - is the slight increase in young farmers and the stable number of small farms and large-scale farms. He says this reflects USDA's work to grow local and regional food systems and exports. Still - Vilsack says more must be done for mid-sized operations. He says the 2014 Farm Bill will expand support for beginning farmers and new market opportunities for all producers. Finally - Vilsack says the Census data illustrate the strength of diversity in crop production, markets, people and land use across the agricultural sector. While the aging nature of the farming population is a concern - he says there's hope that trend can be reversed as the next generation of talent is attracted to rural America and retained.

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