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Farmers need a new marketing plan, Vilsack tells renewable fuels producers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gives his opening statements as he testifies before the House Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee on the USDA's fiscal 2014 budget proposal in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gives his opening statements as he testifies before the House Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee on the USDA's fiscal 2014 budget proposal in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

DES MOINES — Complaining about taxes, regulations and hard work isn’t the best marketing plan for farmers hoping to encourage a younger generation to follow them into “one of the great callings in life,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told farmers Tuesday.

The former Iowa governor told the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association praised agriculture and ag-based fuel producers for their contribution not only to the nation’s food supply, but to its national security.

However, Vilsack said that if they want to find people who will buy their land and take over there operations, they need to highlight the positives associated with farming and rural life.

“There’s lots of competition for these young people,” Vilsack said, and farmers could be their own worst enemy when it comes to marketing their occupation and lifestyle to the next generation of agricultural producers. “You have to make the case to young people that farming is something they ought to aspire to.”

Despite the risk and hard work involved, Vilsack said, farming is the opportunity “to be your own boss, to be an entrepreneur, to embrace innovation, feed the world, fuel your country’s safety, create options for consumers, allow the people of this country an amazing capacity with reference to their paychecks because food is so, so inexpensive.”

“Every single person who is not a farmer is not a farmer because we have delegated the responsibility of feeding our family to a farmer,” Vilsack said. “There is not a more important job in the United States of America than that.”

“Why aren’t we marketing that?” he said.

Vilsack went on to thank farmers and rural America for its contribution to national security by raising children to “understand and appreciate that you can’t keep taking from the land. You got to give something back to it or it will stop producing.

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“If it stops producing you don’t make a living, so you look for opportunities to reinvest in the land,” he said.

That understanding that “anything that is important to our family, anything that is important to our community requires us to reinvest, requires us to put something back.”

One sign of that, he said, is the fact that about 15 percent of the American population — rural America — provides more than 35 percent of military personnel.

So farming, he included, “is important to preserve that value and that value is important to preserving this country as the greatest nation on the earth.”

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