Guest Opinion: The next Secretary of Agriculture has a lot on his plate

Published 7:34 am Friday, December 18, 2020

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By Anna Johnson

For almost 50 years, the Center for Rural Affairs has been a leading force in standing up for the family farmer and rancher, small business owner and rural communities.

We look forward to working with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack; President-Elect Joe Biden; and the new USDA leadership as they listen to and work with rural Americans. On Dec. 10, Vilsack was officially nominated for the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All Cabinet appointees, including Secretary of Agriculture, must be confirmed by the Senate. He served in the position under President Obama.

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We urge the new administration to take strong stances in support of rural America. First, strong financial and administrative support is needed for the Conservation Stewardship Program, USDA’s leading working lands conservation program. We also urge the new administration to support rural entrepreneurship and rural microenterprises, and enact policies that level the playing field for beginning, small and mid-sized farmers. Finally, we urge the new administration to engage with small meat processors, and work to address the significant processing bottlenecks that are preventing many small livestock producers from being able to sell their meat.

Through USDA’s wide diversity of programs that can impact rural communities, we hope to see increased support for communities that are struggling economically.

We believe the Center for Rural Affairs and the new administration have the same goal in mind: establish genuine opportunity for all in rural communities, leading to a bright and vibrant future.

Anna Johnson is a policy manager for the Center for Rural Affairs.