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Census portends less congressional clout for ag

The latest census numbers indicate that, while urban areas continue to grow nationwide and will add new Congressional seats, rural areas will have less representation in Congress. 

That scenario could make it even tougher to build support for federal farm programs.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes that isn’t the case.

“Because we have agricultural production that is the best in the world, consumers have a tremendous advantage in America,” Vilsack says.  “We only spend about ten percent to fifteen percent of our paycheck for groceries.  Part of the reason we do that is because we have a strong safety net for those producers who are faced with bad weather or bad markets.  That allows them to stay in business.”

One of Vilsack’s main missions in office has been to revitalize the rural economy.  He says it’s essential if we want to repopulate rural communities and return political strength to rural America,

“Part of that is a strong safety net for agriculture, for farmers, for farm families.  Part of it is strategies to allow small farm producers to migrate into mid-sized operations,” he says. “We saw from the last ag census that we added about 100,000 new farmers to the 2.2 million who farm in this country–very small operations–we need strategies to allow them to migrate into larger scale facilities.”

Vilsack made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program.

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