February 17, 2011
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture today, praising 2010 as a record-setting year of success for agriculture.
"These are good times for American agriculture," he said. U.S. farm exports reached an all time high in 2010, both in value and volume. Vilsack projects 2011 will be a new record, forecasting a $41 billion agricultural trade balance.
Vilsack said conditions for credit are improving, with loans increasingly available for farmers across the country except in areas dominated by poultry, livestock and dairy production.
USDA's proposed 2012 budget cuts discretionary funding to $24 billion, down by $2 billion from the agency's 2011 request.
Farm real estate values rose by 3 percent in 2010 to a record level of $1.8 trillion, an upward trend Vilsack expects to continue. He took note of the challenges that accompany high-value land and said, "I hope that moving forward we can work to confront this issue and others as we look to grow the next generation of farmers, ranchers and producers. This may mean a solution based on sweat equity, or another way to provide credit to those who wish to farm in this country." As farming and open space advocates in California fight to keep the Williamson Act funded through Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget cuts, increasing real estate values pose an unusual challenge. The Williamson Act taxes farmland based on its productivity, rather than its assessed value, in to keep farming competitive with selling acreage to developers.
"For the good of our environment, the quality of life we all enjoy, the relatively low cost of food, and for the American economy as a whole, we must keep farmland as farmland – and farmers on the farm," said Vilsack.