Man-Made Risk Creates Uncertainty in Agriculture, Rural America

With record farm income, record exports and more young people moving into agriculture, the entire  field of agriculture is becoming cool again. So what risk do we need to manage?

That’s the question Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked during his keynote address at the Agricultural Outlook Forum, on Feb. 21 in Arlington, Va. Following the theme, “Managing Risk in the 21st Century,” Vilsack said there is risk we don’t have control over and then there is man-made risk.

“The uncertainty and risk in ag today in many cases are man-made,” said Vilsack. “There is risk in the uncertainty… of the pending sequester. What that means for USDA is that every line item will have to be reduced by about five to six percent. The only way we can absorb a cut of this magnitude is by impacting the people,” said Vilsack.

The same thing will happen on March 27 should Congress not pass a budget or continuing resolution. “Theoretically all government activity stops,” said Vilsack. “That is another man-made risk.”

The lack of a farm bill puts producers at risk, while Vilsack touted immigration reform to help increase farm labor. All of these are man-made risks that can be resolved by Congress, stated Vilsack; however, other risks, like the historic drought that affected more than 50 percent of U.S. counties are beyond man’s control.

This prompted USDA to drought task force to mitigate the effects of the drought. “We started thinking, were there steps other than what should be doing in order to provide help and assistance,” said Vilsack.

By promoting multicropping and finding a way for all farming groups — genetically engineered and organic farming — to coexist “we can mitigate risk of producers working in same space with different farming types,” said Vilsack.

An advocate for rural America, Vilsack reiterated that rural America is the number one place for food production, energy, oil, and natural gas, and it is essential to provide the tools to people in those areas to help keep America secure and productive.

“They [rural America] will be able to deal with weather-related risks. They have historically,” said Vilsack. “What they need is for us in Washington, D.C. to act, cooperate, to agree and compromise to get through the process so we are not faced with budget uncertainty

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6 Responses to Man-Made Risk Creates Uncertainty in Agriculture, Rural America

  1. Michael Harte says:

    I interpret from Mr. Vilsack’s comments that we should support an end to the sequester, which I understand was proposed by your administration. When my business took a downturn, we tightened our belt, had to reduce some people’s hours and I took a reduction in salary. I believe the cutbacks are necessary until a balanced budget is realized and the debt is being retired. I have read various articles that indicate that the sequester is really a reduction of the increase in spending. Therefore, an increase of only 4 to 6% in spending instead of 8 to 10%, in my mind, is not a reduction at all, just a limited spending increase.

  2. Greg Flippin says:

    We should all go back to farming by traditional means and doing away with genetically engineered crops and livestock.

  3. Carlos Colorado says:

    Mr. Vilsack:
    Our farmer need the assistance of the government of the USA to fight MONSANTO about the genetic seeds so these way they can select his own seed, to low the cost and improve quality.

  4. Hollis Davenport says:

    Most of the problems in agriculture can be traced to government involvement. In the 70’s we were told to plant fence row to fence row. Then the government stopped exports. Bam farm crisis, to much grain. Then it instituted PIC acres to micro manage crops, this was a mess till they gave farmers the ability to plant what crop and how much. Exports picked up. Farm economy good again. Farmers promoted ethanol and the government resisted. Cut back on oil use and stimulated the economy. The farm program as a whole can go away as far as I and several of my friends are concerned. The stimulus it gives is minimal at best. For most we would like to have crop insurance and this is heavily abused by many. Clean up these programs and others related to the farm bill i.e.: food stamp fraud and you will find lots of money you can easily trim.

  5. Kim says:

    Your comments are well taken. There is always room for more efficiency. One incorrect statement is that cuts will come from increases already in place. This is not the case. Many of the USDA line item budgets have been cut substantially (10%)already and this would be an additional reduction. There are offices that are trying to provide service to the producers with half the staff they had 2 years ago. There is a hard hiring freeze so no one is getting replaced as people retire. There is no travel money to do required spot checks and that is how the abuse continues in the programs mentioned. Federal employees have been under a 2 year pay freeze. No cost of living or any increase in base. While this is not tragic for a lot of employees, those working for under $40,000 a year have been taking home less each year while costs at home keep going up. Now we are looking at possible furloughs (time off with no pay). For the person who has a fixed budget and is trying to stay within that budget, this increases the difficulty of that happening. It is easy to lump all government workers into the same group as those making $80,000 or above, but there is a very large percentage that is still working their way up the career ladder making under $40,000 a year. Please remember not all farmers or government employees are part of the causes of the problems and are working very hard to be part of the solution.

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