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USDA chief visits St. Paul to tout new farm bill

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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stopped in Minnesota Saturday and urged Congress to pass a long-term farm bill, Minnesota Public Radio reports. He joined U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, both D-Minn., at Rail Transfer Inc., a St. Paul-based agriculture transport business.

Congress passed an extension of the 2008 farm bill last month, but Vilsack said it was not enough and the new farm bill should be approved.

MPR quotes Vilsack saying: "An extension of the existing bill did not include any livestock disaster assistance. It didn't include a new system for dairy that would've made it a little bit easier for dairy producers in this state to continue in production. Didn't include a rural development commitment; it didn't include an energy title. So all of the things we were talking about in terms of rebuilding this rural economy, that in turn helps to create jobs here in cities, isn't adequately supported with an extension of the existing bill as it was structured."

The Associated Press notes Minnesota generated $6.7 billion in agricultural exports in 2011.

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