Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says research and investment in the next generation of farmers will gain attention for rural America in 2013.

Vilsack shared his outlook for the year with attendees at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting in Nashville. The drought of 2012 made it a tough year, bringing on challenges for America’s producers. Vilsack said 2012 proved farmers, ranchers and producers are resilient and willing to embrace new technology to improve production.

While acknowledging the impact of key events in 2012 on the year ahead, he encouraged attendees to take advantage of opportunities a biobased economy presents.

“We must create new agricultural products that provide a renewed opportunity for the next generation of American farmers,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack focused on research and investments in rural America through research and collaboration. One of the opportunities lies in biofuels and research and loan support will promote the development of new-generation refineries.

A newly created “USDA Biobased Product” label will help promote production of feedstocks to be converted into biofuel. The label will link manufacturers of more than 25,000 plant-based products with buyers.

Other priorities the secretary listed this year include passage of a five-year farm bill, a strong safety net and continuing the country’s commitment to enhancing trade.

Reuters reports rural America doesn’t have the political power it once had due to a declining population, but its presence can improve through alliances with immigration reform groups, anti-hunger advocates and the renewable energy community. Alliances can shine new light on agriculture to emphasize its role in food, fuel, conservation, recreation and other areas.