Washington, D.C. (June 1, 2022)—The following remarks were delivered by Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), introducing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the secretary’s announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Framework for Food System Transformation. The event was held this morning at Georgetown University.
“Good morning and thank you for kind introduction. It is my great pleasure to introduce Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this morning and I look forward to hearing more about the framework on competitiveness and resiliency that USDA has developed.
“The past two years have seen the food and agriculture supply chain rocked by a series of once in a generation events. The COVID-19 pandemic, a worsening ag labor crisis and most recently Russia’s war in Ukraine have strained the entire sector to near the breaking point. From farmers in the field to consumers in the grocery store aisle, every American—and untold millions around the world—continue to deal with the impacts of these events.
“My members—agricultural cooperatives that are owned by farmers and operated for their benefit—have witnessed this firsthand. The breadth and diversity of farmer co-ops mean that they span the entire supply chain, directly connecting farmers with the American consumer. Throughout the past two years, farmer co-ops and their members have persevered through a flood of constantly evolving challenges to make sure that the system held and to meet the needs of their fellow Americans.
“But one lesson that my members learned is that we cannot take the strength of the supply chain for granted. Change is needed to strengthen it in the face of whatever future challenges we see as a nation. That is why today’s announcement on USDA’s efforts to ensure resiliency, competitiveness and equity is so important to the future of American agriculture. Farmer co-ops stand ready to be a partner in these efforts and to help ensure that changes to the supply chain bring real benefits to farmers, consumers and rural communities.
“And in this process we know that we have a trusted partner in Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack has been a tremendous leader since his return to USDA, encouraging his team to be forward leaning and proactive to address these challenges head on. In addition, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has been instrumental in securing the funding for many of the efforts that will be outlined today.
“On behalf of my co-op members, I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack and his staff for being champions for all of agriculture and all producers and developing this framework and I look forward to his comments on it. So Mr. Secretary, the podium is yours.”
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.