Vilsack Focuses on Farming’s Future Despite Protester

Dan Agri-Business

Protesters were escorted out after briefly interrupting Secretary Vilsack’s keynote speech at the 2024 USDA Agriculture Outlook Forum, Thursday.
Photo by Sabrina Halvorson

A protester tried to interrupt Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Thursday, as he gave his keynote speech at the USDA’s 100th Agriculture Outlook Forum.

The protestor shouted at Vilsack, “You stole billions of dollars to bail out the chicken industry,” and accused him of creating the bird flu pandemic.

Secretary Vilsack attempted to ask the woman to stay and listen to the program, but instead of engaging in that conversation, she continued chanting as security escorted her and her two companions out.

Meanwhile, Secretary Vilsack’s speech focused on the importance of farming and rural America.

“In 1981, Bob Berglund was leaving this job of Secretary of Agriculture for Minnesota, and he began to have concerns about the societal impact of this focus on just solely productivity. And he said, you know, we may lose farms,” Vilsack said. “And when those farms are lost, we lose the farm families. And when those farm families are lost, we lose young people going to the rural schools, and perhaps that will have an impact on rural education. We lose customers for small businesses and maybe that will impact Main Street businesses. We’ll lose population and maybe that will impact and affect our ability to provide basic healthcare. His concern was for small communities.”


Vilsack said that concern “hit it right on the head.” Based on USDA’s recent census that published this week, since 1981 the nation has lost 536,543 farms.

“Over a half a million farms gone,” Vilsack said. “At the same time, we’ve lost 165 million acres of farmland. Land that was once farmed that is no longer being farmed.”

The Secretary detailed USDA programs that he says aim to keep farmers and rural America running by reiterating what he said in an earlier statement when the Census of Agriculture was released Tuesday. “In response to those challenges, the Biden-Harris Administration has undertaken historic efforts to grow independent meat and poultry processing capacity in nearly every state, to bolster local and regional food systems so that farmers can sell directly to customers within their communities, and to create new revenue streams through renewable energy and ecosystem markets,” he said. “All of these actions are enabling America’s farmers to be less reliant on a few large, consolidated monopolies, making farming more viable for the next generation, and making our food system more resilient for everyone who eats.”

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.