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Central Valley | Racial Justice

USDA Secretary Vilsack ~ Ready to Help Pass Food, Farm and Jobs Bill
by khubaka, michael harris
Friday May 3rd, 2013 1:02 PM
The restoration of Black Agriculture in America has never been a mission critical priority since the creation of the Department of Agriculture at the dawn of the end of chattel slavery throughout America, including California. President Lincoln established the Department of Agriculture in preparation for his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Secretary Vilsack in one of his first outreach meetings with "Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers" shared a Civil Rights agenda and later a began a cultural transformation of the USDA. Amazing good news... If the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill continues a singular focus on Rural America at the continual public policy exclusion of Urban Agriculture, then we need a separate Agriculture Department within Health and Human Services and/or Housing and Urban Development... the destruction of Black Agriculture in America is clear and no specific target policy is on the horizon... in fact everything that has worked has been cut in the name of cost savings... even saying Black Farmer or Black Agriculture is not possible in the current reality. The Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Honorable Marcia Fudge Urban Agriculture agenda begins the positive way forward... yet is may take discretionary Secretary resources to implement what Rural Congress members have never ever done... support Black Farmers and Agriculturalists in specific public policy allocation of US taxpayer resources, yet our contribution to the forward flow of humanity is well documented.

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, on May 3, 2013 at 1:15 PM

In recent months, the Federal budget has dominated the conversation here in Washington. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we have been working hard on mission critical priorities, even as we implement mandatory across-the-board budget cuts.

The good news is that our proactive efforts to cut costs have saved more than $828 million in recent years, putting us in a better position to deliver important programs.

But we also have not lost sight of a key requirement for these programs to continue: passage of a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.

In January, Congress took short-term action to extend many 2008 Farm Bill programs for nine months. Those programs will expire in September, limiting their effectiveness and providing no long-term certainty for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

As Congress returns to Washington in the coming days, leaders from both parties have signaled a willingness to come together and get a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed. That is promising news. USDA intends to provide whatever technical assistance we can to help Congress pass a long-term, comprehensive bill.

A Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would allow USDA to continue our record accomplishments on behalf of the American people, while providing new income opportunities across rural America.

It would enable USDA to further expand markets for agricultural products at home and abroad, strengthen conservation efforts, create new opportunities for local and regional food systems and grow the biobased economy.

It would maintain important agricultural research, and ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all Americans. A comprehensive bill would also continue programs that directly help rural communities – such as the 110 grants USDA awarded this week under our Value-Added Producer Grant program to help rural small businesses manufacture new products, expand local food systems and create jobs.

We have not lost sight of the importance of a long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill – and I know folks across rural America are counting on Congress to get the job done as soon as possible. We stand ready to help in any way we can.