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Continued Recovery for America’s Agricultural Economy

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack discusses encouraging news from two USDA reports that illustrate the strength of the recovery in our agricultural economy.

Yesterday I was pleased to receive the encouraging news from two USDA reports that illustrate the strength of the recovery in our agricultural economy. The 2010 Farm Income Forecast and Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade show a positive picture for 2010, and predict sustained growth for the future. 

This recovery is a testament to the 2008 Farm Bill, to a wide range of efforts of the Obama Administration – such as the Recovery Act – to move the economy forward and to support the agriculture economy, and the hard work and resilience of America’s farmers and ranchers. 

Like the rest of the economy, the agriculture sector has struggled through tough economic times.  But after declining more than 20 percent in 2009, the main measures of farm sector earnings experienced a rapid rebound and are forecast to rise in 2010.  Net farm income has rebounded, up 24 percent from 2009.  And net cash income will be the second highest on record.  

Just as important – this recovery was sector-wide.  While an increase in the value of livestock production accounted for much of the upward movement, there is also an increase in the value of dairy production, meat animal production, and poultry and egg production.  And this progress is having an immediate effect on the lives of millions of Americans: average farm family household income is projected to reach more than $81,000 in 2010 – up 5.8 percent from 2009.  

These forecasts highlight the importance of USDA’s work to increase agricultural exports as a part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative.  We are pursuing a new trade strategy which looks at nations based on the nature of their marketplace.  We have worked hard to negotiate the removal of barriers to exporting pork, poultry and other products.  And we have pursued an international trading system with rules based on the best available science to ensure that U.S. agricultural producers have fair access to foreign markets.  

These efforts mean that agriculture is one of the only major sectors of the economy with a trade surplus, which we expect to be worth $30.5 billion this year.  Overall, we agricultural exports should be worth $107.5 billion in fiscal year 2010 – up from $96 billion in 2009 – and we expect them to rise again in 2011.  More importantly, this progress should create good jobs for Americans: USDA studies show that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports over 8,000 jobs and generates an additional $1.4 billion in economic activity.  

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the underlying values of rural America has played in this strong and rapid recovery. The dedication of our farmers and ranchers is second to none. They have worked hard keep their debt low and to capitalize on a broader economic recovery.  And their willingness to adapt, innovate and embrace new research has ensured their success for decades and was main reason they have been so resilient in the current economy.  

As the American economy continues to climb out of the recession, with help from the Obama administration and USDA, American Agriculture is helping to lead the charge. American farmers and ranchers have stayed resilient, and will continue to support a foundation of economic prosperity for the rest of the nation. 

Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture