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Lessons from the Farm to Strengthen America

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlines how the President's plan to pay for the American Jobs Act will impact farmers and ranchers.

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the USDA Blog.

A week ago, President Obama released the American Jobs Act, a specific plan to jumpstart our economy and put Americans to work today.  It contains ideas that both parties in Washington have supported.  And yesterday, he laid out a plan that will pay for it – and for other long-term investments we need to stay competitive – while reducing our deficits.

His plan takes a balanced approach.  It looks for savings across government.  And it asks everyone to do their part and pay their fair share so we can live within our means.

For agriculture, the plan focuses on what the President and I believe is one of the most pressing challenges facing producers right now: maintaining a strong safety net and disaster assistance programs that will work for all farmers and ranchers, no matter what they produce or where.

The plan will strengthen our disaster assistance programs, which are currently set to run out of funding at the end of the month.  It means that farmers knocked down by natural disaster can get their operations back on track.  After witnessing flood, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires this year – I am even more certain of the importance of this component of the safety net.

By modernizing our crop insurance program and making modest changes to the subsidy that crop insurance companies receive, we’ll make sure that we improve the programs and implement them more efficiently.

The plan proposes reducing conservation funding by 3 percent to help control the deficit. But it challenges us to leverage our still-significant investments in conservation to attract more private sector investment so we don’t lose ground in our effort to conserve soil and water resources.

Farmers and ranchers have worked over the years – especially following the farm crisis of the 1980s – to reduce their debt but thrive by investing wisely, adapting, innovating, and cutting back when necessary.  Agriculture shows us that by investing wisely and cutting wisely, we can grow the economy for the long term, and get our country’s fiscal house in order.

The President’s plan follows that mold.  It will invest to create jobs now, maintaining a strong safety net and creating a better market for our agricultural goods.  And it sets us on a path to compete by asking everyone to pay their fair share, while investing in the innovation and economic opportunities we need to win the future.

Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.