Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack received a thunderous ovation from a standing room only crowd at the recently completed Commodity Classic when he admonished the U.S. Congress to, “Forget about your party, forget about the people who paid for your last campaign, forget about your next campaign, and just do your job.”

The one time Iowa Governor specifically urged Congress to end the sequester, give government agencies a budget, then rapidly get along with the business of passing a workable five-year farm plan that will allow farmers to do their job.

“In a modern, Democratic society this (sequestration) should not happen. The short-term damage and potential long-term damage is too great to risk,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said the USDA has some major challenges to tackle in the next few years, including a renewed emphasis on agricultural research. Even in tough budget times, the Obama administration understands the dire need to invest more heavily in agriculture, he said.

“Here in Florida, the multi-billion dollar citrus industry has a serious problem with citrus greening that has put some areas of the state virtually out of the business. A USDA research team recently found commonly occurring dead bacteria that kills the insect that vectors citrus greening disease. That’s just one example of the kind of research we need to invest in as a nation,” Vilsack added.

Over the past few years, he said agriculture has been one of America’s best investments. In each of the past four years, agriculture has set a record for farm exports. “This year would likely set another record, but the inaction of our Congress puts that record in jeopardy,” Vilsack said.

“By cutting already skin tight budgets with further furloughs and other forms of budgetary cutbacks we risk stopping the momentum that agriculture has built over the past few years. We will have fewer trade missions and fewer people out in the world selling agriculture,” he said.

“Last year, in one of the worst droughts since the Dust Bowl era, U.S. corn growers still produced the fifth largest corn crop on record. That should tell the general public and more importantly our political leaders that American farmers can cope with adversity.

“What American farmers need is for Congress to do their jobs, so we can do ours,” Vilsack said, creating another resounding round of approval from the huge crowd of grain farmers in the audience.

“Thanks primarily to U.S. grain farmers, the percentage of foreign crude oil used by Americans dropped to 45 percent, down from 62 percent just a few years back. The increase in oil from renewable resources has created thousands of jobs and hundreds of new rural industries that simply didn’t exist when our country depended so heavily on foreign oil.