Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to review the state of the rural economy. According to the latest forecast from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), net farm income in the United States is expected to fall by 56 percent from 2013 to 2016, the largest three-year percentage decline in net farm income since the Great Depression. While members thanked the Secretary for his service, they also raised a number of concerns, including the impact that the continued outlook for depressed prices could have on America’s farmers and ranchers.
“As chairman of this committee, I am deeply concerned about the direction we are headed. With USDA projecting no relief in sight, it is more important now than ever that we hold the line on the Farm Bill and we push back against attacks on the risk management tools that are so vital to protecting our farms and ranches.
“While Secretary Vilsack reported the farm economy is sound, many of the farmers and ranchers that we talk to are telling us the opposite. Nowhere is that concern being felt more acutely than in the cottonbelt. While the actions of the Chinese and Indian governments continue to hammer cotton markets, threatening the very existence of the cotton industry in the United States, Secretary Vilsack continues to deny much needed relief. The Secretary has used his discretion repeatedly to intervene in situations much less dire than the one facing the cotton industry. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not we are going to stand by our farmers and ranchers when they are under economic assault by foreign governments. The Secretary has the authority and the responsibility to act,” said Chairman K. Michael Conaway.
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C