The economic landscape today is far different than it was in 2013, when lawmakers were considering the last Farm Bill. Net income for farmers is down about 50 percent from that time, and the revenue streams aren’t supporting the debt structure of many in the industry, particularly our younger farmers.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue knows that, and during testimony Wednesday before the House Agriculture Committee, he wanted to make sure that those politicians knew it, too.
Perdue’s goal during the public hearing was to answer questions on the current state of the rural economy and to discuss his vision for the USDA’s support of rural America during his tenure.
“If farms aren’t doing well in our rural communities, those communities don’t do well,” he said.
Perdue talked about the realignment that he’s working through with his agency and that there will be an emphasis on subagencies better communicating with one another. It’s all part of the same “family,” he noted, and there will be better service for farmers and their operations in the long run.
Among the other highlights from the more than three hours of testimony:
- He said that, in the wake of the wildfires, it’s reasonable to consider extending the 90-day grazing period for Crop Reserve Program lands.
- He vowed that the conservation mission of the agency will be maintained.
- The nation’s land-grant institutions were highlighted, and there was talk of a greater need to get more students trained in agriculture, even if they don’t have an FFA or 4-H backgrounds. Of course, it will come down to the allocation of funding to better promote students and the schools.
- Critically important to the industry is labor, and Perdue said that he would work closely with President Donald Trump to advise him on immigrant labor and other related issues.