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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Talks to Local Farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack talks to local farmers and others in the agriculture industry about what the USDA is doing to support the industry in rural communities.

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By Tiffany Teasley

It was a packed house with hundreds of farmers and others in the agriculture industry, poised to pose their questions to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"With the diversity that Michigan has we create a series of growth creation opportunities for the fruits and vegetables that have grown here," Vilsack said.

From food safety to food assistance, Vilsack addressed a numbers of issues, including how the government is trying to reduce cost for local farmers.

"Reconfiguring any debt that farmers have in these tough times and we're looking at ways in which interest can be reduced or payments can be forgiven for a period of time," Vilsack said

The Secretary also talked about how they've extended and increased the amount for emergency food assistance and are investing in industries such as dairy.

"Between commodity purchases and the milk payments we, will probably invest about a billion dollars total in the dairy industry in just those two projects in this fiscal year," Vilsack said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan also highlighted legislation that would establish a National Food Protection Training Institute in Battle Creek.

"They're going to actually, as a private entity, begin training people now that we would bring people in nationally, this is about jobs for us in Michigan," Stabenow said.

And while farmers say they were excited about some the Secretary's comments.

"Every family needs a farm because every farmer needs to grow the products that we eat everyday, and people forget how important farmers are, I think that was a very important comment that he made," said Todd Regis who attended the forum.

There's still more concerns they say need to be heard.

"I think it would be better if we heard more tangible commitment to small farms," said Steve Bemis who attended the forum.

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