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Agricultural Technology and Productivity Continue to Make Gains and Ensure U.S. Food Security

A Conversation with Tom Vilsack

Speaker: Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Presider: Roger C. Altman, Founder and Chairman, Evercore Partners, Inc.
April 9, 2014

Event Description

With the 2014 farm bill now enacted into law, U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack visits CFR to discuss the USDA's policy priorities with Roger Altman of Evercore Partners. Vilsack credits advanced agricultural technology and the productivity of American farmers with maintaining the country's status as a food-secure nation, despite a growing population and a shrinking agricultural sector. He also discusses the potential impact that climate change may have on American farmers, as well as the agricultural aspects of the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU and Asia.

The Renewing America series examines how policies at home directly influence the economic and military strength of the United States and its ability to act in the world.

Event Highlights

Tom Vilsack on the importance of the farm bill:

"Every single one of us benefits from this bill. Because we are a food secure nation. And by that, I mean we have the capacity and the capability in the United States of producing virtually everything we need to feed our own people. Very few countries in the world can do that. And because of the extraordinary productivity and efficiency of American agriculture, it has freed the rest of us to do whatever—everyone in this audience has done in their life."

Tom Vilsack on changes to the USDA's farm subsidy system in the most recent farm bill:

"This system, essentially for commodities, essentially said to producers, 'We're going to provide you support regardless of whether you have a good year or a difficult year.' And so when crop prices were at their highest levels in recent history, farmers were still receiving government support. That philosophy changes with this farm bill. No longer is it the case that farmers will receive checks in good times. They will continue to receive help and assistance when times are tough."

Tom Vilsack on how climate change could affect agriculture in the United States:

"Well, with changing climates and a global economy, we're seeing more intense weather patterns which challenges the science to continue to be a step ahead of those more intense weather patterns so we can continue to grow crops in very difficult circumstances. There is also an expansion of potential pests and diseases that are even more difficult sometimes to deal with. And there is the possibility of migration of agriculture north. So what we grow today in some parts of the country, may not be grown forty years from now or fifty years from now unless we adapt and mitigate."

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Primary Sources

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive agricultural and food bill, passed every five years, which regulates the United States Department of...