Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed a crowd at the 2012 Farm Progress Show, urging Congress addressing the critical need of drafting a 2012 Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. While the current Farm Bill is set to expire Sept. 30, 2012, the legislation remains unfinished with time running out.
Vilsack stressed the need to move forward and to move now with the Farm Bill.
"We need it now," Vilsack said. There is no reason we can't get it done. If it is a priority, congress can move very quickly."
Farmers who have been hit hard by this year's drought won't see real relief from the government until Congress passes a new farm bill, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said President Barack Obama has also created a Rural Council to look at what steps can be taken to help rural areas affected by the drought.
The Rural Council is designed to oversee the impact of the drought on rural America. The council, made up of Cabinet members, will integrate and coordinate programs to assist rural areas affected by the drought, Vilsack said.
Vilsack said the United States Department of Agriculture is "doing everything we can within the powers that we have" to provide relief for those affected by the drought.
"We're doing as much as we possibly can, but the reality is the most specific and direct help for producers will come when we have a food, farm and jobs bill because that will contain the capacity to go back and resurrect, revive and retroactively put in force disaster programs that have expired," Vilsack said.
But the effect of the drought goes beyond just the farm, Vilsack said.
"We need to be thinking further down the road than just today," he said. "We need to be thinking what does this do next year, how does it impact, what is the rippling effect?"
Despite hardships created by the drought, Vilsack said he's hopeful about the future of U.S. agriculture.
"They say, 'It's tough, but we're tough,' so I'm optimistic about the future," Vilsack said.