White House Rural Council Blog

  • The Cabinet Reporting to the President … and to You

    When President Obama and his Cabinet took office a year ago, they faced an array of historic challenges: an economy in freefall; job losses averaging almost 700,000 a month; a middle class under assault; two wars and badly frayed global alliances; and a staggering $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

    Faced with these unparalleled challenges, the President and his Cabinet went straight to work.  The Administration took bold steps to: rescue the country from a potential second Great Depression; rebuild the economy for the long-term by creating good-paying jobs, improving education, reducing health care costs, and promoting energy independence; and restore America’s standing and leadership in the world.

    Over the past year, the Administration has made real progress towards these goals.  Today, I’m pleased to announce a new interactive online feature, "The President’s Cabinet Reporting to You."  Through short videos, members of the President’s Cabinet describe their agencies’ accomplishments over the past year, as well as their plans for moving the country forward.

    For example:

    • Energy Secretary Chu highlights the thousands of green jobs that have been created through Recovery Act dollars;
    • Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius talks about the success in helping to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus;
    • Secretary of State Clinton describes her department’s efforts to restore our global partnerships; and
    • Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag discusses the President’s initiative to streamline government programs that work and eliminate those that don’t.

    This Friday morning, President Obama will convene the fifth Cabinet Meeting of his Administration and continue his discussions with the Cabinet about their efforts to create more jobs, rebuild the middle class, and transform our economy for the 21st Century.

    Chris Lu is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary

  • From the Heartland to the Frontlines: Improving Security and Creating Jobs

    Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus signed a  Memorandum of Understanding between their departments to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.  This agreement will simultaneously strengthen the economic recovery in rural America, creating new jobs and new industries that cannot be exported;  enhance our national security by decreasing our dependence on foreign oil; and address the challenge of climate change. 

    USDA and DON

    (left to right) Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, and Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Ray Mabus address the media following a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony at the Pentagon. January 21, 2010. (by by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien)

    The Obama Administration has been engaged in these efforts since May 2009, when President Obama established the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, an effort to help coordinate efforts across the federal government to advance biofuels research and commercialization.  This agreement creates a strong partnership that promotes clean energy technologies and will help stimulate additional private investment and innovation to develop the next generation of biofuels.    In fiscal year 2008, the Navy alone consumed nearly 1.2 billion gallons of petroleum, predominantly in fuel for ships and aircraft.

    Read more about yesterday’s announcement.

    To demonstrate the potential of this partnership, the Marine Corps had on display a prototype Light Armored Vehicle or LAV.  The U.S. Army’s Tank and Automotive Command, has for the past 6 months conducted tests with biofuels in LAVs ranging in biofuel mixture level from 5%-30%.  The Department of the Navy is committed to testing biofuels for use in its aircraft, surface ships and tactical vehicles like LAVs.  The LAV-25A2 on display is mechanically the same as the LAV-25 operating in Afghanistan.

    Tony Russell is Communication Advisor for the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.


  • Broadband Plan Shaking Up Communications at FCC

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the new Broadband.gov blog.

    I had always intended for the FCC’s work on the National Broadband Plan to be transparent and open to a wide variety of stakeholders including providers, public interest groups and citizens alike. This effort is too important to leave anyone out.

    I am pleased to see that the Commission’s work on the plan is already transforming the way we at the agency communicate with the public. Fittingly, we are using the power of the Internet to boost public participation in the plan through our blog, "Blogband," which is dedicated to the National Broadband Plan. The posts have given us an informal way to keep people up-to-date and engaged in the process. Importantly, the comments back have also been a catalyst for new thinking and creative solutions.

    We’re also using the Internet to give more people greater access to our workshops here at the Commission. In addition to the over 1,100 people who’ve so far attended the workshops in person, over 5,000 people have registered to view and participate in the workshops online. The workshops represent an unparalleled level of openness and participation in the Commission’s work.

    Inside the agency, we are hard at work processing the public input we are getting from our many workshops. The hours of discussion by workshop participants, along with comments that have already been filed at the FCC, have prompted us to draft new Public Notices about the plan. Over the coming weeks, you will see several of them issued. The new comments we receive will be filed in the official record for the plan. And of course, the transcripts that are being made of each workshop will also be part of the record.

    So, thank you for your comments to date and please keep them coming in the weeks ahead!

    Julius Genachowski is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission

  • USDA Launches New Rural Tour Site, Ways to Stay Connected

    Today is a very exciting day. We rolled out a new Rural Tour web site to enhance public engagement and share information from the road. There has been such a positive reception to the Rural Tour events, we needed a new way to connect with individuals across the nation beyond the actual events.
    That's where new media comes in.
    It's much more than sending a tweet or feeding blog content through Facebook. We’re interested in sharing information beyond traditonal press releases and finding out what people have to say, as well.
    There are a few new features I’m particularly excited about on the Rural Tour site.
    • Join the Conversation – Although we’d like to, we can’t visit every state and every town. Whether we make it to your town or not, this is the place to make your voice heard.
    • What’s Working – Beyond Recovery Act reports, there are important stories to tell about what the USDA is doing in communities across the nation. This is the place to a sample of what’s happening.
    • Stay Connected – We’re offering new ways for people to stay up to date with the Department and the tour.
    On Flickr, we’re starting out with a Rural Tour collection but will soon be adding the best of the best from our expansive photo collection. Soon visitors will find photos of animals, forests, research and everything in between. Our YouTube page is growing, as well. We also have a Facebook fan pagefor people to connect with USDA.
    With more than 100,000 employees and 7,000 offices worldwide, there is always something new to see and learn from the Department. Check it out and stay tuned, there will be more to come.
    We hope that these tools are useful and you learn something new, lend your voice and stay connected.
    Amanda Eamich is Director of New Media (acting) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Cabinet Officials Continue to Tour Rural America

    The Rural Tour is continuing this week, as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood head to Wisconsin today to talk about economic development.  As you may remember, Secretary Vilsack is leading the Rural Tour to travel to rural communities, listen to residents and get their thoughts on recovery.  The aim is to come up with the best solutions for community challenges, and let residents know how the federal government can assist them.
    On Saturday, Secretary Vilsack will be joined by Energy Secretary Stephen Chu in Virginia.  They will discuss carbon sequestration and weatherization as part of the President’s plan to create green jobs and focus on clean energy.  The Recovery Act is allocating $4.8 billion to install insulation, fix heating and cooling systems and other repairs, to help make homes more energy-efficient.  These funds will weatherize 1 million homes, which will help lower utility bills for struggling families, and provide construction jobs.  
    On Monday, the tour continues in Louisiana, where Secretary Vilsack will be joined by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss rural health.  Health and Human Services has been awarding Recovery Act Capital Improvement Program (CIP) grants to rural health centers across America to repair and renovation facilities.
    Head over to the Rural Tour blog where you can read stories from the tour, and post your thoughts.

    Update: At the event in Wisconsin today, Secretary Vilsack and Secretary LaHood highlighted the importance of investing in both physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, as well as expanding broadband infrastructure in rural areas.  They also discussed Recovery Act efforts underway in Wisconsin, where $375 million is available for transportation projects. The Recovery Act provides $34 million for new clean-fuel buses, vans and other equipment to improve mobility for those living in rural areas. You can read more about the event, as well as Recovery Act projects in Wisconsin, here.


  • Strengthening Rural Communities: USDA Kicks Off Rural Tour

    Cross-posted from the Department of Agriculture's new Rural Tour Blog.

    The President announced yesterday that I will be leading the Administration's rural tour, which will be visiting rural communities across the country over the coming weeks and months. At each event I will try to provide information about how the USDA and the Obama Administration are affecting the lives of rural Americans.

    And just as importantly, I want to listen to the thoughts, concerns and stories about each community’s vision for its future. We will collect ideas about how the USDA could be better serving these communities.

    To help people across the country follow our progress on the Rural Tour, we are launching a new Rural Tour Web site to chronicle the sights, stories and activities of all the communities we visit over the course of the tour. The site will include a blog, videos and photos, RSS feeds, and other interactive tools so that folks across the country can participate by sharing stories and providing feedback about how the efforts of the USDA and the Obama Administration are making a difference in strengthening America’s rural communities. For those that want to follow the tour, we will be twittering live from our Rural Tour events and also sharing news and information along the way.

    We hope to see you at one of our stops or hear from you on our Web site!

    Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

    Ed. Addition: White House photos of Vice President Biden kicking off the Rural Tour.  He was joined today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper in annoucning the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to un-served and underserved communities across America.

    Vice President Biden kicks off the rural tour
    (Vice President Joe Biden speaks at an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act event on broadband investments in Erie, Pennsylvania, Wednesday, July 1, 2009.  The Vice President announced the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to un-served and underserved communities across America. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.)
    Vice President Biden kicks off the rural tour
    (Vice President Joe Biden answers a question from the audience at an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act event on broadband investments in Erie, Pennsylvania, Wednesday, July 1, 2009.  The Vice President announced the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to un-served and underserved communities across America. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.)