America's Agricultural Success: A Well-Kept Secret?

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Amid all the worry about how long it will take the economic recovery to kick into high gear, there's a little-noticed sector that's doing very well, thank you: American agriculture. Overlooked by many of us in the news media, probably in part because we spend most of our time in big cities, farm sector earnings hit a record last year, with farm income rising just above $100 billion.

I sat down with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack a few days ago to get an update on what his huge (90,000 employees) department is up to, and came away surprised by the successes in the American agri-economy. Much of this is being driven by farm exports, which reached a record high last year -- and as Vilsack, a former Governor of Iowa, likes to point out, helped support 1.15 million jobs here in the United States. These exports contributed to an overall U.S. trade surplus that also hit a record in 2011. (Did you know that every $1 billion in overseas trade generates 8,400 jobs in this country?)

Read More: PBS News Hour