U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack this week is sharing USDA’s priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill. Vilsack says the legislation is about more than just farming – something the 98-percent of Americans who don’t farm need to remember. He said it’s about energy, nutrition, jobs and providing an adequate food supply for the U.S. and the world. Vilsack acknowledges that the fiscal and political realities about the size of the nation’s debt and deficit require doing more with less. To do that – Vilsack believes three core principles that have shaped American ag must be protected and advanced. Those principles are maintaining a strong safety net, supporting sustainable productivity and promoting vibrant markets.

Vilsack adds that existing programs have to be simplified, redundant provisions need to be reduced and there needs to be a premium on creating innovative solutions to address current and future problems. Farmers recognize the safety net makeup will likely change – according to Vilsack – but he says the production and protection it brings can’t be lost. He says producers need quick assistance after they lose their crops to a natural disaster. Also – Vilsack says the safety net needs to reflect the diversity of American agriculture, contain simple, understandable programs and be accountable to the 98-percent in the U.S. who do not farm. Additionally – as the safety net is strengthened – Vilsack believes it needs to be made easier for those who have never farmed before to begin farming.