Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a series of policies designed to help modernize American agriculture. As part of an effort to deal with the series of discrimination lawsuits that have rocked the USDA over the last several months, Vilsack announced a streamlined claims process for Hispanic farmers who have suffered from discrimination. In addition to streamlining payments, Vilsack announced the formation of a community outreach program designed to help build stronger community ties and repair strained relations between minority farmers and the USDA.
In an effort to address environmental concerns, Vilsack announced the membership of the 2011-2012 Agricultural Air Quality Task Force. The AAQTF helps guide agricultural policy and advises the USDA regarding air pollution in American farms. Over the last few years the taskforce has been active in reducing emissions while protecting farmers and trying to maximize efficiency. Vilsack also discussed President Obama’s recent pledge to cut oil consumption in the U.S. by relying more and more on biofuels and ethanol.
Finally, Vilsack stressed the importance of international trade relations by urging Congress to ratify the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, which would seek to lower tariffs between the two nations. In particular, the agreement would lower tariffs on agricultural goods, such as beef and soybeans, which would help American farmers and would add jobs to the American economy. Pointing out that every $1 billion of farm exports creates over 8,000 domestic jobs, Vilsack argued that ratifying the treaty would greatly help the struggling U.S. economy.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer