January 28, 2020

Sec. Vilsack Points to Positives in “Rural America”- While Senate Ag Committee set to Focus on “Farm Economy”

Tomorrow, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will provide testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee at a hearing titled, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Current State of the Farm Economy.”

In perhaps would could be a precursor to some of the points Sec. Vilsack may highlight tomorrow, he penned a brief opinion item that was posted on Monday at The New York Times Online (“Rural America Has Already Begun to Rebound“) where he noted that, “Despite concerns about the fate of rural America, a number of key benchmarks show these areas have been growing economically since 2014. Many were surprised when the Census Bureau released data last Thursday showing median household income in non-metro areas of the United States had increased by 3.4 percent in 2015 and poverty rates had fallen.”

Sec. Vilsack stated that, “Rural populations have stabilized and are beginning to grow, the Agriculture Department reported earlier this year. Then we learned that rural counties had added more than 250,000 jobs in 2014 and 2015. As a result, the rural unemployment rate has dropped below 6 percent for the first time since 2007. Hunger is down in rural and urban areas alike. Today, about 8 million fewer people are struggling to provide adequate food for themselves or their families compared to the height of the recession.

“Taken together, these benchmarks demonstrate a turning point in rural communities.”

Note that the title of the Senate Ag Committee hearing includes the words “Farm Economy,” while Sec. Vilsack’s opinion item referenced “Rural America.”

As the U.S. looks to harvest record corn and soybean crops this fall, commodity prices have dropped and have caused a decrease in projected net farm income.

Secretary Vilsack has recently referenced the different components of “farm household” income by pointing to both “off farm income,” as well as “farm income.”

A recent DTN article, that included perspective from Sec. Vilsack, noted that, “The average American farm family has a median income of about $76,282, according to USDA, which is $19,782 higher than average U.S. household.”

And during a recent conference call with reporters, Sec. Vilsack expounded on the fact that overall “farm household” income, which includes “off-farm” income, as well as “farm income,” is significantly above national averages. This is primarily due to the fact that “off farm” income in farm households remains strong. Sec. Vilsack noted that what is done in the policy area of rural development is important because it helps to strengthen “off farm” income opportunities.

Perhaps these different components of “farm household” income will be a subject that is addressed in greater detail at tomorrow’s Ag Committee hearing.


Comments are closed.