White House Rural Council Blog

  • A Saturday in the Outdoors

    Ed. Note: In honor of National Public Lands Day, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson will also visit Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, located along the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., and join volunteers as they plant trees, install logs for erosion control, and collect lotus plants to help preserve and enhance the National Park’s environment. In addition to the events the Department of the Interior has planned, the National Forest Service has75 volunteer opportunities in National Forests throughout the country. To learn more about National Public Lands Day visit: www.publiclandsday.org.

    Tomorrow I will join more than 170,000 volunteers across the country as we roll up our sleeves to help preserve and improve our nation’s public lands.

    At 2,200 sites across the country – from neighborhood green spaces to city parks, and from our beaches to our national parks – we’ll be celebrating two important occasions: National Public Lands Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day.

  • On The Right Track At The Nevada State Fair

    Ed. Note: Building on the President’s commitment to address issues important to rural Americans, Administration officials are visiting State Fairs around the country, see a map of where we've been so far.

    When you grow up in rural America, as I did, there is nothing more exciting than the state or county fair.  Showing livestock, competing in baking and quilting contests, eyeing the latest farm equipment, and dipping the season’s first apples in caramel are perennial favorites among America’s rural youth.  So when I visited the Nevada State Fair last week, I made a quick beeline to the 4H and FFA exhibits to see if things were the same as ‘when I was a kid.’

  • Continued Recovery for America’s Agricultural Economy

    Yesterday I was pleased to receive the encouraging news from two USDA reports that illustrate the strength of the recovery in our agricultural economy. The 2010 Farm Income Forecast and Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade show a positive picture for 2010, and predict sustained growth for the future. 

    This recovery is a testament to the 2008 Farm Bill, to a wide range of efforts of the Obama Administration – such as the Recovery Act – to move the economy forward and to support the agriculture economy, and the hard work and resilience of America’s farmers and ranchers. 

  • Five Years After Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, USDA Continues to Assist Gulf Residents

    Devastation caused five years ago to the Gulf region by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita remains historic in proportion. It resulted in loss of life, families being displaced, homes and businesses destroyed, and communities left in ruins.  In the midst of this great tragedy, USDA Rural Development lent their knowledge and time to assist in the immediate hours following the passing of the storms.  It was a new, but critical role of supporting other Federal agencies in swiftly establishing 80 disaster recovery centers; assisting local residents and leaders as they faced unparalleled adversity. 

  • At the Indiana State Fair: Farmers, The First Entrepreneurs

    Ed. Note: Building on the President’s commitment to address issues important to rural Americans, Administration officials are visiting state fairs all summer. See a map of where we've been so far, and hear from SBA Deputy Administrator Johns about her recent visit to the Indian State Fair:

    Having grown up in Indiana, I know firsthand that there is much debate over what a “Hoosier” is, but I can tell you for certain that there were many at the Indiana State Fair. From the young 4-H and FFA participants that I met at a pancake breakfast, to the small businesses selling their products, and the family farmers displaying their livestock, Hoosiers represent the diversity and growth of the small business community.

  • Iowa State Fair: America’s Heartland at its Best

    I’ve spent the last few days here in Iowa, a state that I was honored to serve as Governor for eight years. Yesterday, I walked the grounds of the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. The fair is refreshingly the same each year, but also a snapshot of changing rural America. The food stands, midway and cattle barns are in the same place that they’ve been for years. We’ve sculpted a "Butter Cow" since the early 1900s, but now the young people all have iPods and Blackberry phones. Their parents have cell phones.

    Like the state fair, rural America is changing each year in subtle ways. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents made their homes on small farmsteads and made their living directly from the land. Today, farming is more mechanized. Farms are larger, and fewer Americans call them home. Most people who live in small towns in rural America still feel connected to the land, but they don’t necessarily depend on it for their livelihood. The demands of rural America are changing, along with the drivers of the rural economy.

    While at the fair, I participated in a roundtable on rural revitalization. The roundtable discussion featured some of Iowa’s top rural leaders, including Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang. We discussed our vision for developing a new, strong, vibrant rural economy; one that supports food production, but also generates renewable energy while safeguarding our environmental heritage. To help drive this rural renaissance, the Obama Administration supports quality health care and educational opportunities for all Americans, availability of broadband, and safe, sanitary rural housing. It’s what rural America wants.

    At USDA, we are moving forward to meet the changing demands of rural America. Yesterday, I announced a major USDA investment toward the Administration’s goal: loans and grants to allow farmers, ranchers, business owners and producers improve energy efficiency, develop renewable energy and cut costs. Today, I will join Commerce Secretary Locke in announcing additional projects to bring broadband to rural America.

    While USDA is adapting to meet the expanding needs of all of rural America, our primary purpose remains the same: to help those who live there prosper. Like the Iowa State Fair’s cattle barns and butter cow, some things at USDA remain constant, but we know that to remain vital to rural residents, we need to assist them when they ask for broadband and cell phone service, too.

    Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture