Climate change, rural broadband and civil rights were among key topics as Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack testified before the House Appropriations Ag subcommittee earlier this week. While making sure upload and download speeds are increased in a way that makes sense with today’s broadband needs, Vilsack added climate change is also a priority at USDA.

“The American Jobs Plan has resources for “climate smart” agriculture, bio-based manufacturing, clean energy conversion. This budget also contains resources consistent with that vision of taking full opportunity of climate—increasing the climate hubs, opportunities for rural utilities to convert to clean energy, a civilian climate corps, increased research in climate.”

Vilsack added removing a climate of discrimination at USDA is also vital.

“When I was last Secretary, we focused on the settlement of the Pigford cases and other class actions for discrimination.  We’re moving beyond that now, to look at how we might be able to root out systemic barriers that exist in our programs today, that have created a significant gap between those who’ve had full access to our programs, and those who have not.”

Vilsack also stressed anti-poverty efforts, farm productivity and resiliency amid the pandemic, and fighting food and nutritional insecurity to lawmakers. But, perhaps he was most excited about advancing his vision that “climate-smart” Ag will be the key idea to “completely change the economy in rural America.”

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