In a system where large-scale family farms are producing nearly 44 percent of the U.S. value of production under contract, smaller family farms often have to diversify income.
“We believe there’s a better alternative than go big or go out,” Vilsack said at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s meeting on Monday.
“A historic opportunity exists for American agriculture and rural America to transform the nation’s food and agricultural system from one that benefits a few to one that benefits the many,” Vilsack told the group. “We have had too much division in this country from my perspective. This is an opportunity to reflect on the power of community to help folks.”
Vilsack says that with the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is acting on its vision and seeking to build out a broader suite of market opportunities for producers.
Vilsack referenced Abraham Lincoln’s establishment of the USDA in 1862: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.” Vilsack drew a comparison to today’s circumstances following the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the impacts of climate change on the American farm and food system.
The secretary’s remarks are timely with the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization process underway. In the past year, the USDA has funded programs to support climate-smart production practices, expand meat processing capacity in small and medium-sized facilities, and increase domestic fertilizer production.