ST. LOUIS – United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited St. Louis Tuesday on a nationwide tour touting the Biden administration’s $800 million investment in rural infrastructure and job creation. Missouri will receive more than $70 million from the USDA.

“Whether it’s business and industry opportunities or whether it’s basic infrastructure, it’s about improving lives,” Vilsack said.

“Farmers who’re focused on trying to embrace climate smart agriculture and the enormous opportunity that develops for more income for farmers now will have the opportunity to do precision agriculture, significantly reducing the cost of inputs. There are just a multitude of benefits here.”

Before his arrival in St. Louis, the secretary paid a visit to the Minnesota State Fair. He’ll be heading to Decatur, Illinois, on Wednesday to attend the Farm Progress Show, where the Farm Bill, which is set to expire Sept. 30, will likely be a hot topic.

“Here’s the biggest problem in agriculture, in my estimation. We had a record year in farm income last year. Best year ever. And the year before was good, too. This is the two best years we’ve experienced in farm income,” Vilsack said. “This year won’t be a record year, but it’ll be above the 20-year average for income. The problem is the concentration of that income.”

The secretary says 7.5% of American farms account for 89% of the country’s farming income, and that nearly 50% of American farms didn’t turn a profit last year.

“I think it’s time for us to think about a change in direction and more options for small and midsize producers, because it directly relates to those small towns,” Vilsack said.

When it comes to how farmers can help protect the environment by reducing emissions, Vilsack points to the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The USDA is investing more than $3.1 billion in 141 projects that support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities.

“It’s voluntary. It’s market-driven. It has the support of American agriculture, and that’s the way we’re going to do it,” Vilsack said.