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January 11, 2011   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 11, 2011

Outgoing Young Farmers & Ranchers Chairman Will Gilmer of Alabama, left, accepts a plaque from AFBF President Bob Stallman during the closing session of the 92nd annual meeting on Monday.
ATLANTA, Ga. - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Mike Rowe, popular TV host of "Dirty Jobs," addressed nearly 6,000 farmers during Monday's closing session of the 92nd annual meeting of American Farm Bureau Federation in Atlanta.

Vilsack told AFBF members that he and other administration officials are working to ensure more trade opportunities for American farmers by resolving ongoing trade disputes, tapping into emerging markets and building relationships in fragile, fledgling markets, like Afghanistan.

However Vilsack cautioned farmers that lawmakers will have to be creative with limited resources as they draft the 2012 Farm Bill. But the safety net critical to so many producers will be preserved, he said.

Vilsack expressed concern about America's economy, but said he is confident that it will recover. It will take innovation and creativity much like what farmers do every day on their farms, he said.

"We need an economy that creates and innovates," Vilsack said. "We know it can work because it's worked in agriculture."

Vilsack emphasized his appreciation for all that growers contribute beyond food. Just as farmers and ranchers have grown from their troubles, the rest of the country has something to learn from rural America, where, for every $1 in debt, there are $11 in assets.

Rowe entertained the crowd with stories of his on-farm visits filming the popular TV series "Dirty Jobs" and fielded questions from the audience. One attendee asked if he would be a spokesman for agriculture. Rowe laughed and said farmers didn't need a spokesman -- "I am an advocate for agriculture, but you -- the farmers of our country -- are you own best spokesman," he said. "No one can tell your story better than you do."

As for so-called environmentalists and government officials who try to give farmers grief about today's modern agriculture - Rowe has a suggestion. "Find a farmer and scrape off the dirt and you'll find the greenest person on the planet," he said. Alabama's Will Gilmer, the outgoing national chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee also shared the stage during the closing session. He was recognized for his service the past year as a leader of the organization. Gilmer, who operates a dairy in Lamar County, also participated in the AFBF video contest where farmers shared their on-farm experiences. His video was among those featured on a giant screen during the closing session.

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