WASHINGTON – As the national budget for FY 2013 continues to be adjusted and reviewed, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement Feb. 13 explaining many of the ways the Obama Administration and the US Department of Agriculture will continue to support the US agriculture community. Included in the budget are programs investing in research and development, encouraging agricultural exports and continuing disaster relief and assistance for farmers.

Secretary Vilsack’s statement read:

"The President and I believe that this is a make or break moment for the middle class. What's at stake is the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement. To keep that promise alive, we need an economy that makes, creates and innovates — an economy that's built to last.

"Over the past three years, USDA has worked with the Obama Administration to respond to the economic crises of 2008, put Americans back to work, and to rebuild economic security for the middle class.

"USDA has supported farmers, ranchers and growers so that last year they enjoyed record farm income. We have focused on creating jobs and building a foundation for future economic growth, especially in rural America, where unemployment is falling than in other parts of the country.

"The President's 2013 USDA budget helps us to continue this progress, supporting robust farm income and good jobs in rural communities.

"To help sustain record farm income, we will invest in research and development to improve agricultural productivity. The budget makes a 23 percent increase in funding for our premier competitive grants program to support the most worthy projects and continues support for in-house research and the land grant universities. We'll continue our efforts to combat destructive pests and disease that threaten crops and livestock.

"To encourage thriving markets for our farm products aboard, we will continue funding that helped make last year a record for agricultural exports, driving farm income and supporting 1.1 million American jobs. We'll reduce trade barriers and aggressively promote 'grown in America' products. At home, we're working to encourage the development of a bio-based economy, where what we grow and raise is used to make fuel, chemicals and consumer goods to complement our traditional production of food, feed, and fiber. Our work to promote local and regional food systems provides another opportunity for income growth for farmers of all sizes.

"The 2013 budget will increase the record number of acres of working land in conservation programs, rewarding farmers, ranchers and growers for cleaning our air and water, preserving soil and wildlife habitat.

"Finally, farmers need to know that one bad crop won't put them out of business, so this budget maintains a strong safety net with disaster assistance, income support, and farm loans. We preserve efforts to modernize systems that will allow farmers and ranchers to access many of our programs online at their convenience. The budget's full funding for the expected requirements for the Department's three major nutrition assistance programs will also help support the bottom line for America's producers.

"Like families and businesses across the country, USDA is finding new ways to innovate while making investments that help drive economic growth in the long term. At the end of the day, we want farmers working hard to make a good living, and we want to offer good, middle class jobs for the 50 million people who call rural America home. The 2013 budget will allow us to keep our commitment to the customers we serve each day: farmers, ranchers, small businesses and the families that live, work and make their homes in rural America."