Omaha Public Radio News
3:02 pm
Sat January 29, 2011

Vilsack: agriculture is the strongest part of the U.S. economy

Omaha, NE – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the use of new technology not only helps farmers, but also rural schools and health care.

Vilsack spoke about innovation and agriculture's role in economic recovery during a visit Friday to Omaha. He says agriculture is the strongest part of the U.S. economy, and farm income was up 34 percent last year. Farmers are more productive in raising crops and livestock, according to Vilsack. But he says more needs to be done to encourage young people to farm. The average age of an American farmer is 57, and Vilsack says 30 percent of American farmers are over age 65.

He also used Friday's visit to highlight the USDA'S innovation efforts. Vilsack says research and development is leading to new uses of crops for biofuels. A recent of expansion of rural broadband access will give farmers and ranchers real-time information on market costs. Vilsack says that's also key for rural schools that might not otherwise be able to offer advanced classes.

Vilsack says corn production has increased 300 percent in his lifetime.