Statement from Ag Secretary on proposed FY 2015 budget
WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on the proposed FY 2015 budget on March 4:
“The President’s 2015 USDA budget proposal achieves reform and results for the American taxpayer; fosters opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and supports innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.
The budget focuses on creating jobs and building a foundation for future economic growth, particularly in rural America, where 85 percent of our nation’s persistent poverty counties are located.
It supports farmers, ranchers and growers as they achieve net farm income well above the average of the previous decade. Mid-sized farms and livestock producers continue to face challenges as a result of prolonged drought. We are hopeful that implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, which restores disaster assistance and invests in programs to help beginning, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, will provide much-needed stability for producers moving forward.
To support hardworking Americans as they find and keep jobs and transition out of nutrition assistance programs, we have invested in programs that will build the skills they need to get back into the workforce.
The budget continues to fund programs that, since 2009, have helped more than 800,000 families buy, repair or refinance a home; extended new or improved broadband service for more than 7 million Americans and 364,000 rural businesses; improved or constructed more than 90,000 miles of electric line; invested in 6,700 water and wastewater projects for nearly 20 million Americans; and provided grants and loans to assist nearly 75,000 rural small and mid-sized businesses in rural America, creating or saving more than 377,000 jobs.
To help America’s producers break into new export markets for farm and ranch products, and building off of President Obama’s recently announced Made in Rural America export initiative, we will continue funding for trade promotion and market expansion. Last fiscal year, farm and ranch exports reached a record $141 billion and supported nearly one million American jobs.
Here at home, we continue to capitalize on nearly limitless opportunities to use what is grown and raised on our farms and ranches in innovative and unexpected ways. Supported by the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill, the budget makes targeted investments in biobased product manufacturing, local and regional food systems, and specialty crops and organic production.
Building on historic efforts underway across rural America, the budget adds about 23 million acres of land to USDA conservation efforts and sustains 25 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, ensuring clean air, clean and abundant water and critical wildlife habitat for generations to come.
The budget also proposes a new approach to wild land fire suppression, which will allow the Forest Service to stabilize and invest in programs that more effectively restore forested landscapes and support those living in communities impacted by wildfire to avert and minimize damage from future wildfires.
The 2015 budget makes strategic investments that further innovation and encourage creative approaches to solving rural America’s most pressing challenges. The budget provides increased funding of $325 million for our premier competitive grants program to support the cutting edge research that will help producers adapt and succeed in the face of modern challenges, including a changing climate. It also provides $25 million each to three public-private innovation institutes that focus on biobased product manufacturing, pollinator health, and anti-microbial resistance research, respectively.
At the same time, the 2015 budget recognizes fiscal realities. It supports USDA’s ongoing efforts to modernize and update the way we do business. It builds off of our efforts through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, which in recent years has saved the American taxpayer a total of $1.2 billion while ensuring that USDA customers receive the best possible service. Our leaner workforce continues to find ways to implement increasingly complex programs with fewer resources.
The security of our nation’s food and fiber supply depends on what we do today to support a rural America that is increasingly nimble, diverse and responsive to changing consumer tastes. The 2015 budget proposal, and the tools provided in the new farm bill, will help to create jobs and drive long-term, sustainable economic growth in rural America, while equipping our farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to survive and thrive.”