He’s been a regular fixture at Commodity Classic, with this year his fifth appearance at the annual gathering of corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum growers. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s message to those gathered in San Antonio at this morning’s general session was how thankful he is for many things.
“It is awfully nice to come here today to talk about the PASSAGE of a Farm Bill, as opposed the need for a Farm Bill,” adding that commodity groups, such as those gathered in front of him, made the new law a reality. Vilsack said we don’t thank farmers enough for the work they do, especially considering how vital they are in the food, energy and economic security America enjoys. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with making sure the implementation of the Farm Bill translates into hope for all farmers, old and new alike. “Our Farm Bill, which you helped pass, for me creates a hopeful set of opportunities and rewards, and will invest in innovation.”
Looking forward, Vilsack said they want to continue the new trend of more young farmers coming back to rural America, especially encouraging minorities, women and returning military veterans to take up what has become again a strong industry. He also outlined how USDA would approach some of the new programs in the Farm Bill and how his agency would provide knowledge and flexibility to producers so they can get the most out of it and manage risks responsibly.
Secretary Vilsack at Commodity Classic
Transcript of speech
Vilsack Classic Press Conference
2014 Commodity Classic Photos
The growers of the Nation’s biggest crops will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.
“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”
“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”
The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.
Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.
President Obama traveled to Michigan State University to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Friday, calling it a bill that has “a lot of tools – it multi-tasks.”
“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”
The president made note of the conservation efforts funded by the bill. “So that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy places like the Mississippi River Valley and Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “It helps rural communities grow, it gives farmers some certainty, it puts in place some important reforms.”
Listen to some of the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced USDA is making $20 million available for agricultural water conservation efforts throughout California to combat the effects of drought.
“This $20 million will be directed to drought mitigation, focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallow ground and to assist with watering facilities and grazing distribution,” said Vilsack during a press conference Tuesday with Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “We expect this is the first of a number of announcements that will be made this week and in the future to provide assistance.”
“We in California are facing a disaster that has the potential to devastate our economy,” said Costa. “We have not had this dry a time period in all of California’s recorded history, that’s how bad it is.”
Interested landowners and managers have until March 3, 2014 to apply for available funds.USDA media call on California drought
The U.S. Senate today voted 68-32 to approve the Agricultural Act of 2014 – what was supposed to be the 2012 Farm Bill.
“This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, who notes that the legislation includes “one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.”
The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs while strengthening tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife. By streamlining programs, the farm bill provides added flexibility and ensures conservation programs are working for producers in the most effective and efficient way – an approach supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations from all 50 states. These reforms increase resources for top priorities while reducing the deficit by $6 billion.
The president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.
The nation’s largest outdoor farm show, Farm Progress Show, has been selected to participate in the 2014 International Buyer Program (IBP). This year’s event takes place in Boone, IA, August 26-28.
The IBP is an export program led by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It brings thousands of international buyers to the U.S. for business-to-business matchmaking with U.S. companies exhibiting at major industry trade shows.
“We are honored to be selected to be among this elite group of trade shows,” said Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events manager. “The IBP program will bring a new level of international attention to those companies who participate in the Farm Progress Show.”
The goal of the IBP is to connect U.S. companies with overseas buyers to produce U.S. export sales. The program promotes their approved events to over 170 countries worldwide, to attract international buyers interested in the latest and most advanced agriculture technologies and products.
The IBP also will be offering unique matchmaking services at the Farm Progress Show, matching overseas buyers with U.S. exhibitors. U.S. exhibitors at the Farm Progress Show, through the IBP’s Showtime Program, will have excellent opportunities to meet with U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. State Department delegation leaders and export partners to discuss overseas market-entry strategies and potential markets and sales for their products/services.
For companies new to exporting or even more experienced exporters, seeking to export to additional target markets, the IBP offers export market advice and counseling. The IBP Team can also provide expert strategic advice and guidance to U.S. companies on which overseas trade show to participate in, what market entry strategies to use in their target markets, and how to locate and qualify overseas distributors and sales representatives.
“The U.S. Department of Commerce is committed to assisting U.S. companies at the Farm Progress Show establish export connections that lead to U.S. export sales. Behind every U.S. export, is a job, a family. That’s the heart of why we support U.S. domestic trade shows, like the Farm Progress Show. It doesn’t get any more important than that.” Mark Wells, IBP project officer, U.S. Department of Commerce.
This morning’s general session at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention featured a speech by our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Yes, he spoke about the farm bill and the need for Congress to pass a new one. Interestingly, he also told us a personal story about being an orphan. Through his adopted father’s side of the family he’s three generations removed from the farm. It was an inspiring story which started with him trying to come up with a one word description of agriculture. He says that it was that great grandfather farmer who was successful enough to raise a family that included children who either farmed or became successful in other businesses. In his grandfather’s case it was the brewing business, then in his father’s case it was real estate and then he became an attorney and ultimately U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The word he came up with is Freedom. He drew applause during the telling of the story which obviously means a lot to him on a personal level.
You can listen to Secretary Vilsack’s speech here: Sec. Vilsack Speech
Immediately after his speech Sec. Vilsack spoke with the media and you can listen to it here: Sec. Vilsack Press Conference
2014 AFBF Convention Photos
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the deadline for new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for fiscal year 2014. Producers interested in participating in the program can now submit applications to NRCS through Feb. 7, 2014.
“Extending the enrollment deadline will make it possible for more farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to apply for this important Farm Bill conservation program,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Through their conservation actions, these good stewards are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run and CSP can help them take their operations to the next level of natural resource management.”
Weller said today’s announcement is another example of USDA’s comprehensive focus on promoting environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.
Producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy use.
Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through Feb. 7 to be eligible during fiscal 2014. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods. To be eligible for this year’s enrollment, producers must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.
Learn more about CSP by visiting the NRCS website or any local USDA service center.
Senator John Thune (R-SD) believes a farm bill is “getting closer to the finish line” but he still has concerns about aspects of it.
“Particularly the lack of reform in the commodity title of the bill, I think that’s a real missed opportunity,” said Thune during a press call with reporters this week.
The South Dakota senator is also concerned about the conservation title in the farm bill “that they get the ‘sodsaver’ provisions made nationwide, that they don’t carve out regional exemptions from that.”
Thune believes there are some good provisions in the conservation title that provide for both wildlife production and land conservation and he supports linking conservation compliance to crop insurance. “Our farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land but we do need to have common sense policies that ensure sound conservation practices are going to continue to be implemented,” he said, adding that he hopes to see a farm bill on the floor of the senate next week.
Thanks to Agri-Pulse for providing us with this audio.
Sen. Thune comments
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is conducting the national Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey. Farmers, ranchers and horticulture producers across the country will begin receiving the survey today in the mail asking them to provide information about their water use and irrigation practices, with responses due by February 10.
“Water is arguably the most important resource for agriculture and horticulture industries,” said NASS’ Census Planning Branch Chief Chris Messer. “The Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey will gauge farmers’ and ranchers’ stewardship of this precious resource and identify opportunities for new technologies.”
NASS traditionally conducts the irrigation survey following each Census of Agriculture. Only those producers who indicated in the 2012 Census of Agriculture that they irrigate are eligible for sampling. The results of the survey help in the development of improved technology, better equipment and more efficient water use practices.
The survey is conducted as part of the Census of Agriculture program, and just as with the 2012 Census, the responses are mandatory under U.S. law. The same law also ensures that NASS will maintain all individual responses completely confidential.
“We take confidentiality extremely seriously at NASS and only publish data in aggregate form,” added Messer. “This approach helps us guarantee that no individual operation or producer can be identified in the report.”
For more information about the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, call (888) 424-7828 or visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.
Hey farmers. The NRCS and FAO are urging you to adopt soil conservation practices like no-till on this World Soil Day.
Here’s a message from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on how important healthy soil is and how using conservation practices like no-till can help farmers take better care of their land.
When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks from the previous crop are chopped, and the top several inches of soil structure are disturbed. Conventional thought suggests this fluffing action allows for better seed placement, but Ray Archuleta, NRCS conservation agronomist, said that no-till systems, especially when combined with cover crops, are better – and lead to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.
Archuleta, who works at the agency’s East National Technology Center in Greensboro, N.C., said no-till has significant financial benefits for producers, too.
“No-tillage can save thousands of dollars every year in fuel, labor and equipment maintenance,” Archuleta said. “The key is to let the soil organisms do the work.”
Here’s a message from the FAO and the Global Soil Partnership.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit Silver Ridge Farm on Thursday, Dec. 5th to announce the release of a new report that outlines the impact of voluntary incentive-based conservation practices across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project report demonstrates the need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will invest in conservation partnerships with our nation’s famers, ranchers and landowners.
Silver Ridge Farm, located in Fredericksburg, VA, is a multigenerational family farm that, like many farms in the Bay Watershed area works with the USDA to implement a wide range of conservation measures.
The Farm Bill is still up in the air on Capitol Hill, and that’s why the folks at Farm Foundation have set up another of their free forums not too far from where Congress will be discussing the legislation’s future. In this next forum on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C., the group has invited a host of experts to talk about the future of federal conservation programs and what those programs mean to land owners and conservation work on the land.
Moderating the panel will be former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Five panelists will present perspectives on the legislation:
Bruce Knight of Strategic Conservation Solutions and former Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will provide an overview of federal conservation policies and the role of federal programs in conservation work.
Eric Lindstrom, who works on wetlands and water conservation at Ducks Unlimited, will discuss that organizations’ migratory bird program, including the federal duck stamp program.
North Dakota farmer Don Bauman will explain the role of conservation in his farming operation.
Marcus Maier of the Indian Creek Watershed Project, will discuss the role of federal programs in this farmer-led project.
To sign up, click here. Also, if you can’t make it to the event, the audio will be archived on the Farm Foundation website.
Five State Ag Directors took part in a panel discussion with farm broadcasters Friday in Kansas City at the 70th Annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention.
California Secretary Karen Ross, Kansas Secretary Dale Rodman, Louisiana Commissioner Michael Strain, Nebraska Director Greg Ibach and North Dakota Commissioner Doug Goehring spent about an hour and a half discussing the differing issues that each of their states are facing and how they are working to combat individual challenges. In addition to what challenges they face together and how they are teaming up to solve them.
Host of AgriTalk, Mike Adams, moderated the discussion. Listen to or download all the comments of these state directors here: State Ag Directors Panel Discussion
2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album
USDA Rural Development was on hand during last week’s NAFB Trade Talk to share their work with rural communities across the United States and promote the use of #MyFarmBill.
I spoke with Colleen Callahan, Illinois State Director for Rural Development, during the event and she was eager to express their commitment to rural communities and their passion for brining value to agricultural businesses who drive the growth of those rural communities through their financial and loan programs.
“When it comes to the breadth of what USDA does, we at Rural Development feel that we are the jewel in the crown of USDA because it’s not just about any one program or any one business. It’s about entire communities and regions.”
During the Secretary of Agriculture’s press conference at NAFB, Vilsack gave credit to Colleen for her committed work with the National Drought Resiliency partnership. USDA, along with numerous other government organizations have teamed up in effort to become better prepared to mitigate the consequences of future droughts. You can find the complete audio from the press conference here.
You can’t talk with anyone from USDA without bringing up the Farm Bill. Colleen talked about the power of strength in numbers and their promotion of #MyFarmBill. The use of the hashtag will allow us all to express our opinions and share our agriculture story to the decision makers. As one it’s hard to make a stand, but together we can share our words, photos and video using #MyFarmBill to be heard. Colleen also reminds us that this is more than simply a farm bill, it is a food bill. It is about producing food for exports and putting wholesome food on the tables in homes across the country.
“In agriculture during this time of year we use a lot of technology. We use that GPS, we know where we are in the field, what the yield is in that very spot. We use the no-steer guidance to get use where we are at that point in the field and so using that technology helps us with social media. The #MyFarmBill really completes that circle. You’re at the end of the field, you’re unloading, it goes from the augur to the grain cart and you are sitting there watching. Take advantage of the time you have to communicate the business you are in.”
Listen to my complete interview with Colleen here: Interview with Colleen Callahan
Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album