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Vilsack: Farm groups united on need for farm bill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that the unity of farm groups in favor of passing a farm bill shows how important it is to pass that bill before the 2008 farm bill expires on September 30.

Vilsack spoke by telephone to reporters from the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, where the 46 farm groups organized as the FarmBillNow Coalition held a news conference Wednesday to call for passage of the bill.

“Rarely do you see so much uniformity among agriculture groups,” Vilsack said. “On this they are one. If it is a priority of House leadership, it can get done.”

USDA statistics on farm income showing continued high farm income despite the drought prove how “resilient” agriculture is, he said, even if individual farmers are suffering. But he added that the farm sector needs the farm bill to maintain the stability that has allowed the sector to be so productive.

He also said it is too early to tell what impact Tropical Storm Isaac, now downgraded from a hurricane, will have on agriculture.

Vilsack made the comments in a call announcing more than $18 million in grants to organizations in 24 states that train beginning farmers and ranchers.