USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined his priorities this week in a meeting with reporters. The priorities include:

  • Combating childhood obesity and enhancing health and nutrition, indicating that USDA should play a key role in the public-health debate and that nutrition programs should be seen as an opportunity to both alleviate hunger and prevent health care problems.
  • Advancing research and development and pursuing opportunities to support the development of biofuels, wind power and other renewable energy sources. Vilsack says USDA needs to make sure the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive recent market challenges while promoting policies that will accelerate the development of next-generation biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve our energy independence.
  • Making progress on major environmental challenges, including climate change. Vilsack says it's important that farmers and ranchers play a role with USDA in efforts to promote incentives for management practices that provide clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat, and help farmers participate in markets that reward them for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Supporting the profitability of farmers and ranchers by providing a safety net that works for all of ag, including independent producers and local and organic ag.
    • Enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act.
    • Quick implementation of the 2008 farm bill.
    • Modernizing the food-safety system.
    • Invest in programs that alleviate hunger and suffering overseas and support long-term ag development.
    • Restore the mission of the U.S. Forest Service as a protector of clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat; a provider of recreation opportunities.
    • USDA to be a key player in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration.
    • Modernize USDA’s computer systems.
    • End discrimination at USDA.

    “We need to do a better job of responding to challenges, apologizing for mistakes when we make them, empowering our employees to make decisions and drive change, and emphasizing a transparent and inclusive style of governing," Vilsack says.