U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told lawmakers and policy leaders that addressing inequity is critical in promoting innovation. At last week’s 99th USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, Vilsack said new income streams and markets are essential for a new generation of more diverse farmers. He challenged the audience to consider if they want a system that sees more consolidation or one that’s innovative enough to expand in different ways.

The audience of USDA bodies was reminded of various examples from U.S. history where the federal government addressed economic inequity among farmers. Citing conservation efforts post dust bowl and supply system changes to increase productivity, Vilsack added that some moves also led to the significant specialization that grew large-scale commodity farming and hurt rural communities over the last 50 years.

In a proposal for an alternative path, Vilsack urged the audience to promote new markets and on-farm income diversity in what he views as an “extraordinary” opportunity to revitalize the “essence of this country.”

Read more on Vilsack’s vision here.