By Gary Joiner

Speculation on the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture continues to percolate. America’s farmers and ranchers are highly interested in the nomination by President-elect Donald Trump. Consumers should be interested, too.

The next Secretary of Agriculture arrives in office at a critical time.

Net cash farm income and net farm income are down for the third consecutive year. Those are real dollars missing from the pockets of family farmers and ranchers. Rural economies are also feeling the economic pinch.

The next Secretary of Agriculture can improve the bottom line of farmers and ranchers by setting the right tone for U.S. farm policy. A 2018 Farm Bill is in the early stages of development. An effective farm bill by Congress builds confidence and predictability in agriculture. Lenders need it. Growers depend on it.

The Secretary is also an ag defender. In fact, agriculture ambassadors for Trump during the campaign pledged that the Secretary “will defend American agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant.”

Those are strong words. But it’s paramount that the next Secretary challenges those who use misinformation and pseudo-science to disparage modern agriculture.

Attitude is contagious. And a Secretary of Agriculture who takes no bull from detractors sends a strong message to farmers ranchers–we’ve got your back.