Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered a clear message to farmers and ranchers attending the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting.

“Agriculture and rural America matter, and no group understands that better than the men and women who lead Farm Bureau,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack also had high praise for agriculture as being responsible for one in every 12 jobs in America, and he focused on the need to address challenges facing the United States and the world.

Last year, American agricultural exports amounted to $137.4 billion, which led to a $42 billion farm trade surplus, and direct support for more than 1 million American jobs, according to Vilsack.

The secretary pledged to Farm Bureau members that USDA would continue to listen to their concerns and would work with other federal departments and agencies on regulatory issues with potential impacts on rural America, including dust and youth labor rules.

USDA is working as agriculture’s partner on a wide range of essential services across the board, Vilsack said, ranging from resource conservation and agricultural financing to crop insurance and rural development.

Vilsack praised agriculture for its role in keeping the nation strong, saying that “the unemployment rate is dropping more quickly in rural America than any other sector of our country.”