Avalos: Ag Bright Spot in U.S. Economy

Avalos: Ag Bright Spot in U.S. Economy

(March 1, 2012)  When budgets are cut in Washington this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not be immune, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos told sheep producers in Scottsdale.

“Agriculture budgets have been reduced and will continue to be reduced, with a 12-percent reduction this year,” said Avalos. “We will be taking a close look at how we do business. We need to provide better results for our customers and greater efficiencies for taxpayers.”

Under USDA’s blueprint for services, he said, the plan is to cut costs and strengthen operations while not disrupting services.

“We will manage the budget issue, not let it manage us,” said Avalos. “We make changes with you in mind to provide services for our stakeholders.” In response to a question about the fate of Wildlife Services, he said it is hoped that services to the livestock industry won’t get cut.

As for USDA’s recent support of ag stakeholders, he cited $700 million in assistance to the U.S. livestock industry, $3.5 billion in disaster aid to more than 250,000 farmers and ranchers and delivering broadband service to more than 7 million rural residents.

Avalos praised the sheep industry for its cooperative effort on scrapie, citing a 96-percent decrease in sheep affected.

He said USDA has received thousands of comments on the issue of disease traceability, comments that will be used to come up with a final rule that he said stakeholders will like.

As for a new Farm Bill, Avalos said it’s about more than just farming and ranching – it’s about jobs, growing needs in rural America and about producing food and fiber. It will focus on providing a safety net, enhancing productivity and stimulating vibrant markets.

Despite a reduction in USDA funding, he noted that “American agriculture is the bright spot in this country’s economy.”

Avalos, who has attended every ASI annual meeting in the three years he has served as undersecretary, said the sheep industry has always treated him like family.

“Your industry is very important to me. I come as a representative of the president and the secretary as a public servant talking to stakeholders, the people of rural America and the people we work for.”

Avalos said he’s proud of the partnerships USDA has formed with American farmers and ranchers and people in rural America, singling out not only ASI but state sheep associations Wyoming, Ohio, Texas and New Mexico.

“We really need to work together to get this economy back on track,” he said. “We need to work hard to be sure everybody gets a fair shot and that everybody gets a fair share.”

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