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Release No. 0301.05 Contact: USDA Press Office (202) 720-4623 - page 6 / 53





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             Agriculture is much different today than when I grew up on that dairy farm in Osage, Iowa-- much different than it was 50 years ago.  I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it was a privilege for me to grow up on that farm.  So much of what I believe in happened in those first 18 years of my life on that dairy farm with John and Adeline Johanns. I would like to believe that our farm policy creates the same opportunities for young people to decide where they want to go with their career and creates opportunities for young people to stay in agriculture. I believe one of the single most important considerations is the impact of our policies on future generations.  We must ask ourselves whether our policies help them enter and succeed in agriculture.   Strong rural communities is another very important part of what farm policy should be about these days.  Rural America's an amazing place.  It's a place where neighbors very much care for each other and for the land, young people learn work ethic, commitment to purpose, discipline.  All of those lessons come from the farm.  I have a vision, and I know the president shares this vision that we will have a vibrant rural farm economy.  And this listening tour is designed to bring out the ideas from you as to how we go about doing that. We are going to be in Wisconsin tomorrow.  Next week we'll be at the Iowa State Fair, then we go on to California.  It's my pleasure this evening to announce three additional forums that have been scheduled: August 16 in Pennsylvania; August 17 in Wyoming-- that one will be done by Under Secretary Mark Rey on natural resources; and August 18 in Indiana-- that one will be done by a gentleman who grew up in Indiana, our deputy secretary of Agriculture, Chuck Conner. I want to tell you what I've told every forum, and that is, I intend to personally visit every region and get to as many states as I can in the months ahead.  And we're also going to have some specialty forums on food and nutrition, which of course is a major part of our budget. We are going to ask for your thoughts on a number of areas, but there are six areas that I just want to mention quickly.  One is, the challenges that relate to new farmers.  These young people that you see in the blue jackets, what are their opportunities, and how are our policies impacting them-- whether it's cost of land or rent or fuel or whatever? The second question relates to competitiveness-- how can we make sure that our farmers are poised and ready to be competitive with other nations -- 27 percent of agriculture relies upon a foreign market. The third question relates to farm program benefits.  Is the current distribution of farm benefits a fair and equitable distribution?  Benefits should stabilize farm prices and incomes.  The current programs in so many ways distribute assistance based on past and current production levels, and some argue that this leads to larger and larger farms.

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