Sec. Vilsack to K-State students: ‘You have that power. Use it!'

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2012 -Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday became the latest member of a long list of distinguished public figures to deliver a Landon Lecture at Kansas State University.

The lecture series began in 1966 and is a tribute to former Kansas Gov. Alfred Landon, the 1936 GOP Presidential nominee who was defeated by President Franklin Roosevelt.

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Vilsack delivered an impassioned 45 minute defense of the importance of U.S. agriculture to an audience made up of K-State students, faculty, alumni and friends, including Senate Ag Ranking Member Pat Roberts, but he made no policy or program announcements. He rattled off some of the ag sector's more “extraordinary” achievements ‑ record income and exports in 2011 and 50 consecutive years of trade surpluses - and then lamented that the rest of the country all too often forgets that it is its farmers and ranchers who ensure food security at home and abroad, create jobs, protect shrinking land and water resources, provide outdoor recreational opportunities, and are leading the nation's transition to a more sustainable bio-based economy.

American agriculture, he observed, “is at the center of making sure we have a safer world ‑ less prone to terrorism ‑ because people who aren't hungry, who are well-educated have a future.” Vilsack, who received a standing ovation at the beginning and at the end of his remarks, described the 16% of Americans who populate farms and other rural locales as “great people” whose value system and work ethic should be celebrated and followed by the rest of the nation's citizens.

He challenged K-State students to seize the opportunity to reacquaint the country “with the extraordinary work of American farmers, ranchers and producers. “You have that power. Use it!”

During a subsequent question-and-answer session, Vilsack reiterated his view that biotechnology must be part of the solution to feeding a growing world population.

“I'm just concerned that if we don't have a commitment to science and a conversation that allows science to continue to expand - and do it in a safe and responsible way - that we're not going to be able to lead that effort,” he argued. Vilsack contended that an ongoing USDA-EPA dialogue with farm and commodity groups is helping to allay fears about ag overregulation.


Original story printed in April 11th, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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