WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite the pandemic and supply chain issues, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture said the ag industry has remained resilient. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle put him in the hot seat saying more needs to be done for rural America.
The Secretary of Agriculture told congressional members even though they’re seeing record exports and an increase in farm income, the way the rural economy is running needs to change.
“Our extraction economy is an economy that essentially we take things off the land and on the land and unfortunately instead of converting them and value adding them in and close to the areas where natural resource is they’re transported to long distances where they’re value added in other locations where values and jobs are created elsewhere,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vislack.
Vislack said the department wants to focus on creating more local and regional opportunities to create jobs and keep the wealth where it’s being created. Suggesting they can do this by expanding processing capacities for local producers.
“The need for our cattle producers our livestock producers our hog producers to have choice and opportunity for a local processing facility that creates local jobs that allows that revenue and wealth that is created and processing to stay in the community,” said Vislack.
Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) tried to get data on the effectiveness current ag grants and programs have on helping small-scale farming and herding in U.S. territories.
“Has the program been successful addressing food security and developing local food systems in these communities,” asked Plaskett.
But the secretary didn’t give any specific, quantifiable data on the success of these programs.
“Farmers ranchers and consumers are battling significant supply chain disruptions and rising energy and input costs and increasing inflation and longstanding labor shortages,” said Congressman Glenn Thompson (R- PA). “And these strains impact production of agriculture.”
Thompson worries that more regulations can hurt the ag industry, but the secretary said he’s willing to work with members to help grow rural America and address these issues.