White House Rural Council Blog

  • Food Safety Week Kick Off

    Cross posted from the USDA blog

    I’m very pleased and honored to be a part of Food Safety Week and contribute to our mission to protect public health. The USDA has been working diligently over the past year to improve food safety since the creation of the Food Safety Working Group. Part of our mission is to guarantee that we equip you with accurate food safety information. If it’s grilling outside for 4th of July, going to a ballgame, or just enjoying a summer night with your family, make sure that safe food handling is a part of your celebration. An easy way to prevent contaminated food is to use a food thermometer when grilling or smoking meat. Commonly, the color of the meat is wrongly used as a method for indicating whether or not the meat is cooked. However, using a food thermometer is the only way to determine the temperature of the food. What temperature should your food be? Check the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s website.

  • USDA Unveils Roadmap To Achieve America’s Renewable Energy Goals

    The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create quality American jobs, combat global warming, reduce fossil fuel dependence and lay a strong foundation for a strong rural economy.  While the President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group, which I co-chair, continues its work to shepherd our Nation's development of this important industry and to coordinate interagency policy, the USDA released a report yesterday outlining both the current state of renewable energy efforts in America and a plan to develop regional strategies to increase the production, marketing and distribution of biofuels.

    The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) mandates that there will be 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year in America’s fuel supply by 2022.  I am confident that we can meet this threshold, but to do so we must make further investments in areas including research and development of feedstocks; sustainable production and management systems; efficient conversion technologies and high-value bioproducts and analysis tools.

    While corn-based ethanol production will remain important to America’s producers, we are also gearing up research efforts to assist growers of advanced biofuels to produce energy from new feedstocks on a regional basis and in an environmentally sustainable manner. 

    Renewable energy development not only promotes energy independence; the regional strategy I’ve outlined sets the stage for job creation in rural communities that are often located in distressed areas and persistent poverty counties.

    To view the report in its entirety, visit www.usda.gov.

    Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of Agriculture

  • The National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue of Renewing Promise

    As the Obama Administration National Rural Summit came to a close yesterday, there was a general feeling of hope for the future of America’s rural communities. But there was also a sense that a host of partners - federal, state, and local governments, non-profit and for-profit entities, and most of all the good people who live in rural America - must work together to bring about the change our rural communities so deserve.

    One of our panelists, Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, acknowledged that although the day’s conversation had covered a breadth of important topics, challenges still lay ahead for rural America. The wide range of issues that will be involved in driving the economic revitalization of rural America span not only several government departments and agencies, but also hit home in every community across the country. With only a limited time to discuss the topics concerning rural communities at the summit, I encourage the public to keep the conversation going to ensure a successful future for the rural economy. That can be done as simply as talking with a neighbor, or by offering your ideas to the White House by visiting the Open Government Initiative.

    One underlying theme of our conversations yesterday was the importance of educating the public about rural America in order to get our rural communities the attention and support they need to thrive. Over the last year, Deputy Secretary Merrigan and I have visited almost all 50 states, in an attempt to focus attention on the pursuit of the American dream within rural communities, and to illustrate how far around the country the reaches of rural America go. But this can only go so far. The conversation needs to extend into all of our communities, so folks understand that the strength of this nation relies on the strength of our rural communities. 

  • Listening to Rural Communities - A National Summit on Rural America

    Tomorrow I will travel to Hillsboro, Missouri to host the Obama Administration’s National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise. The event will feature a broad conversation with key policymakers and community leaders to explore the priorities and policies necessary to strengthen America’s rural communities.

    Rural communities, and the one-in-six Americans who live in them, are at the center of our nation’s values and prosperity. Small towns throughout the United States supply much of our food and water, and they are moving our country towards energy independence. But today, as we prepare to gather for a dialogue that will inform and highlight the Obama administration’s unprecedented commitment to revitalizing rural America, too many of our communities are struggling.

    I am proud and excited at the opportunity to share the stage with panelists who are devoted to renewing America’s promise and building a better future for rural communities. Each of our guests will discuss their area of expertise, and will share ideas about how to maintain a thriving agriculture economy. A strong American economy relies on a vibrant rural America, and the assembled group will offer a terrific diversity of ideas and opinions about how to pursue both proven and new avenues to build prosperity in America’s rural communities.

    Later in the day, summit participants will join in breakout sessions designed to address the big challenges facing rural America. By brainstorming ideas, sharing success stories and outlining possible solutions, these conversations will tackle a range of issues that are critical to the rural economy. The six tracks the summit attendees will explore are: Building Infrastructure for a 21st Century Rural Economy, Expanding Opportunities for Rural Businesses, Renewable Energy and Biofuels, Farm Competitiveness and Productivity, Forest Restoration, Rural Recreation and Private Land Conservation, and Regional Food Systems and Nutrition.

    Tomorrow’s Summit will serve as a capstone for the Rural Tour I led last year, during which I visited 22 states – often joined by other Cabinet Secretaries – to open dialogue between myself, the Obama administration, farmers, ranchers and people who live in our rural communities. At each event we learned from the communities about how USDA and the Obama Administration are affecting the lives of rural Americans. We gathered thoughts, concerns and stories about each community’s vision for its future to help us better serve these communities.

    Over the past year, USDA and the Obama administration have worked to revitalize rural communities with more than 140,000 housing loans, Recovery Act investments in broadband, libraries, schools and hospitals and support for rural entrepreneurs to create jobs. I know that this Summit will act as an additional springboard to solidify our vision for working with communities to create income opportunities, generate wealth and build a stronger, more prosperous rural America for generations to come. We know that when we meet this goal, we will ensure that rural communities across the country will remain the best places in American to live, work, and raise a family.

    To watch the National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise, tomorrow, June 3, visit http://www.usda.gov/live.

    Tom Vilsack is Agriculture Secretary

  • A Summit to Discuss the Future of Rural America

    Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with President Obama in farm country.  At stops in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois we heard from the men and women who make their living in rural America about issues ranging from commodity prices, to job creation initiatives, to the environment.  And we were reminded that a vibrant national economy depends on a healthy rural America.
    Over the last year, I heard about many of these same subjects as I visited dozens of communities in 20 states while leading President Obama’s Rural Tour - an effort to engage in a more robust dialog with folks living in rural America.  In those visits I saw that there is more opportunity in rural American today than at any time in decades – but that we need to embrace new strategies to help drive that revitalization. 
    And today I’m excited to announce that USDA is going to host a National Rural Summit, on Thursday, June 3, in Hillsboro, Mo., to discuss the future of rural America.  This summit will build on the dialogue I began with rural Americans on the Rural Tour, and we’ll seek more input on how communities, states, and the federal government can work together to help strengthen rural communities across this nation. 
    The Obama administration stands ready to help communities generate wealth and build a stronger, more prosperous rural America for generations to come.  And I can’t wait to get out more details about this event – and to hear ideas from Americans of all stripes about how to help in that revitalization.

    Download Video: mp4 (74MB)

    Tom Vilsack is the Agriculture Secretary

  • Back Home in the Midwest

    Recently, I had the privilege of accompanying President Obama on his White House to Main Street Tour to visit towns in Missouri, Illinois and my home state of Iowa. Coming home to small towns in the Midwest reminds me of what terrific places they are to live – but also of the challenges that so many middle class Americans in these communities face on a daily basis.

    The truth is that there is a silent crisis going on in rural America.  Rural communities have higher poverty rates than the rest of the country, fewer people have college degrees, and many towns are watching as their young adults move away because they don’t see an opportunity to make a good living.
    At the local businesses, farms and schools the President and I visited this week, folks were asking the same question:  how can we bring economic vitality back to Main Streets across the nation?  And many of our stops on the tour demonstrated possible answers to that question. 

    In Fort Madison, Iowa we visited a plant that manufactures blades for wind turbines that added nearly 400 new jobs with help from a grant from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Obama administration is hard at work supporting plants like this – and other renewable energy opportunities – to build a green economy that will also help combat climate change. 

    In my home town of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa the President and I visited a small farm and business supplying locally grown food to schools and businesses in the community.  At USDA, our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative is working to create more small businesses like this one that link local production to local consumers.

    A newly-released report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers’ outlines more of the Administration’s policies that will bring greater economic prosperity to rural America. The Recovery Act laid the framework for this new rural economy, making important investments in broadband access, energy, education and infrastructure – but there is still more work to be done to create jobs and ensure prosperity in rural communities.

    Coming home to the Midwest was a reminder of how a healthy American economy depends on a prosperous rural America – and some of the steps we need to take to build it. But it also showed me once again that President Obama is deeply committed to nurturing strong, robust, and vibrant rural communities so that Main Street’s across rural America remain the best places in this nation to live, work, and raise a family.  

    President Obama and Secretary Vilsack Rural Tour

    President Barack Obama tours a farm with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, left, and farmer Lowell Schachtsiek in Palmyra, Missouri, April 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Tom Vilsack is Agriculture Secretary