By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

ATLANTA, Jan. 10 – It might be icy and cold outside, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seemed to be trying to warm up participants attending the the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) with a series of comments lauding their leadership. Even though the group has been at odds with the Secretary for some of his positions, Vilsack won applause from the approximately 5,000 farmers and ranchers attending when he talked about the importance of estate tax reform and private property rights.

The former Iowa Governor noted that Americans spend a much smaller portion of their paychecks on food than almost anyone else in the world.

“I’d like to ask people what they do with that extra 10 percent or 15 percent in their pocket,” he said. “And when was the last time you thanked a farmer?”

Vilsack touted the near-record farm income numbers, indicating farmers and ranchers represent a relatively bright light in an otherwise dreary U.S. economic picture. He noted that farmers and ranchers have learned from their past economic troubles and paid down debt.

“The rest of the country has something to learn from rural America, where, for every $1 in debt, there are $11 in assets,” he explained.

Last year’s potential record farm income is primarily due to farmers’ productivity and heart, according to Vilsack, but the trade surplus agriculture posted—the only trade surplus among the many sectors of the U.S. economy—helped too.

Many of Vilsack’s comments echoed those made in our Open Mic interview. To hear more, click Here.

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