Most farmers also working non-farm jobs to make ends meet

The Morning Show

(WCIA) — The COVID-19 pandemic has changed farm meetings into virtual events, and a big one was held last week on computer screens in farm offices.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, addressed farmers participating in the 25th annual Commodity Classic.

One statistic he announced will surprise many non-farmers.

“I want to share a statistic with you that I got as I was preparing for my Senate confirmation hearing,” he says. “I was taking a look at ERS information about the state of agriculture and the state of farming and the state of income in agriculture. And I saw this chart that essentially talked about where money for farmers and ranchers and producers, where do they get their money, how do they make their money.

“And this chart basically showed that 89.6% of American farm families currently do not make the majority of their money they do earn from their farming operation. And saying this another way, nearly 90% of American farmers require off-farm income by themselves a job, a spouse’s job, to be able to maintain and keep their farm.

“That is a very difficult statistic for a Secretary of Agriculture to repeat to a group of producers here today. Because it suggests we need to do a lot better job, and we need to do a lot more work to create the situation in an industry for more people to make the majority of what they make from what they want to do and what they love to do.”

“Before we craft the next farm bill, I think we have to work between now and the next year or two to take a look at what we need to do to create better and newer markets and fair markets,” Vilsack continued. “And that is going to help to form what a farm bill ought to include.”

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