U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the 2012 Farm Bill must stay focused on providing effective aid to farmers affected by natural disasters, while increasing research funding and maintaining a commitment to conservation.

Vilsack says Congress also needs to focus on improving markets for U.S. products.

He outlined his priorities for the Farm Bill during a speech Monday at the John Deere Des Moines Works in Ankeny.

He says research funding has been stagnant since the 1990s and without increasing funding, productivity could suffer at a time when global demand for food is rising.

The current $284 billion bill, approved in 2008, expires in September 2012. About 75 percent of funding goes toward food nutrition programs but it also supports commodity crops, livestock, research, energy and rural development.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.