The Senate Ag Committee held its first hearing of the 112th Congress Thursday. Senator Debbie Stabenow said point blank, 16 million jobs. That's an estimate of the total number of Americans who have a job because of American agriculture.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared before the Committee to discuss the farm economy.
"As we enter 2011, the farm economy continues to remain strong with U.S. agricultural exports, farm cash receipts and net farm income projected at or above previous record levels," Vilsack said. "Farm household debt levels appear to have stabilized despite increasing land values. While prospects generally look bright, recent sharp increases in prices for major crops are generating a range of concerns."
Concerning agricultural exports, the Secretary said that while they are pleased with record numbers, the focus remains on continuing to open and improve markets for producers. Vilsack pointed out that for calendar year 2010, - China was our number one export market, accounting for 15.1% of exports.
"Credit conditions appear to be improving as commercial banks across the country say loans are available and farmers are increasingly paying them back on time," Vilsack said. "Exceptions include regions dominated by livestock, milk and poultry production."
Mr. Vilsack concluded that more normal weather and production increases worldwide should lead to improved supply-demand balance in key markets, such as wheat, corn and soybeans. With biofuel demand expected to continue growing, although at a slower pace in the future, a big challenge will be responding to that demand by developing new feedstocks, producing on more acres and more per acre while protecting the environment.