As we enjoy the holiday season, it is a great time to celebrate all that American agriculture has accomplished, and to look ahead to a productive new year.

Our farmers, ranchers and growers make incredible contributions each day to the health and strength of this country.  Thanks to their productivity, Americans spend – on average – less than 10 cents out of every dollar they earn on food.  This is far less than families around the world.  It gives us the freedom and the flexibility to spend on our families and invest in our businesses.

We should also celebrate Agriculture as a bright spot in today’s economy.  Farm family household income is on the rise, and farm sector earnings and farm exports to other nations both reached new records in 2011.  Nationwide, agriculture is tied to 1 in 12 jobs.

USDA is part of this story.  In 2011, we helped hundreds of thousands of farmers affected by natural disasters.  We began implementation of trade deals that will mean billions in new exports for American agriculture.  We provided credit to farmers who needed it and helped producers combat pests and disease.

Next year, we will continue to help agriculture confront the evolving challenges of the 21st century: supporting farmers and ranchers with a strong safety net; opening new markets for their products at home and abroad; empowering conservation and stewardship; and encouraging sustainable, productive, profitable operations through science and streamlined assistance.

At the same time, we want to help the next generation of Americans get their start in farming and ranching so they can continue the traditions that have served this nation so well: supplying us with a safe, affordable food supply and generating jobs and economic growth in the countryside.

I am very proud of what America’s farmers, ranchers and growers have accomplished this year.  And I look forward to next year, when USDA will continue to promote and partner with American agriculture to ensure thriving operations that make for a robust ag economy, healthy farm families and a stronger nation.