Agriculture is big business in Texas but it can be a risky business. Texas farmers and ranchers got more than $1.6 billion in help last year from the federal government in the form of loans, disaster assistance and incentives.
Val Dolcini heads the USDA Farm Service Agency.
On the Stability of an Industry that Needs So Much Federal Support:
“Lots of those programs are associated with the safety net that protects farmers and ranchers against natural disasters, declines in prices and other things. We’ve made a choice as a nation to have an active and strong safety net program or series of programs and these are typically found in the Farm Bill – which is passed every several years – and that’s the responsibility of my agency to ensure that that safety net is a helpful tool to farmers and ranchers to make sure that the contributions they make to a relatively inexpensive, safe and reliable food supply can continue.”
On an Example of that Work in Texas:
“For the folks that have been impacted by drought in Texas over the last number of years things like the livestock disaster program really allows them to ranch another day. We’ve got ranching operations all over the state of Texas and throughout the southwest – up into Oklahoma – who’ve been hit by several years of consistent drought and it’s the responsibility of my agency to extend a helping hand so that they can get back on their feet and make sure that those ranching operations continue and are viable into the next generation.”
On Tension Between Urban and Rural on Water Use:
“I think it’ll likely continue to be a big issue everywhere where we have that rural-urban tension. In places like Austin and certainly my home state of California – where there are more and more people living in the cities who don’t really have a connection to the land anymore. And so part of what I do when I travel around the country is really try to emphasize the fact that our heritage is a rural one and the work that is done everyday by the men and women of American agriculture is critically important to the health and vitality of the nation.”