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