By Amy Czerniak, NFU Intern

Jordan and I attended a small intern meet and greet with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Friday afternoon. With many important decisions both on the horizon and currently being made in Washington, D.C., Secretary Vilsack held a question and answer session to both learn what agriculture interns are interested in and to help us become better informed. Topics ranged from the budget crisis and immigration to the upcoming farm bill and the future of the capitol.

Secretary Vilsack said that we’ve reached a new age in Washington, D.C., because we can no longer simply move money around to fund programs; money can’t be shifted because it just isn’t there. It’s a tough situation to be in because Americans will be affected regardless of which programs are reduced or eliminated. Only 16 percent of Americans live in rural areas and that percentage keeps decreasing. The secretary wants to preserve the values of rural America and the work ethic of its people, especially in regards to the upcoming farm bill. He said it is important to give attention to present-day issues but to also plan for future generations.

While Secretary Vilsack spoke to us, he stressed the importance of the city’s agriculture interns. He said that our generation is full of creative thinkers, which is what he feels D.C. needs in order to look to the future. With about half of USDA employees at or near retirement age, he asked us to consider the USDA as a place to develop a career. The secretary noted that some might view retirements as the loss of a great deal of experience and, while he agrees, he also sees the value of the new energy that will come in the door as a result. He said the USDA is a great place to have daily opportunities to change lives.

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