Friday, August 19, 2011

Vilsack Blogs About President's Rural Tour

"I am not surprised" President would devote three days to rural issues, Agriculture Secretary says...

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has a post the White House blog today, discussing President Obama's three-day rural bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, Aug. 15-17. In the photo, above, the President and Vilsack speak with rural leaders during a breakout session at the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. Vilsack made national headlines during the trip when he said in an interview that Food Stamps are a job-creating economic stimulus.

"From investments in rural broadband to efforts to support small-business innovation, the President talked about his commitment to rural America – and he listened to what local residents had to say," Vilsack writes in his blog post, adding "I am not surprised" that the President would spend three full days in rural America.

The Secretary's post:

Today, I am hosting a forum focused on the rural economy at the Iowa State Fair. But, Rural America has been in the spotlight all this week as I joined President Obama to travel across parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, visiting rural communities to discuss his Administration’s efforts to create jobs and drive economic growth. From investments in rural broadband to efforts to support small-business innovation, the President talked about his commitment to rural America – and he listened to what local residents had to say.

The centerpiece of his trip was the Rural Economic Forum, held Tuesday at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta. There, 200 small business owners, farmers, retirees, elected officials and others came together to discuss their ideas for a revitalized rural economy. I was pleased to participate in that forum, along with my Cabinet colleagues Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan, Transportation Secretary LaHood, and Administrator Mills of the Small Business Administration. Ed. note: The White House released no list of invitees.

After opening remarks by the President, the participants broke into a series of small discussion groups – with topics ranging from agricultural innovation and energy opportunities to small business to infrastructure. Each group developed a series of ideas and recommendations, which will become part of a larger report to the White House Rural Council that I chair.

I had the opportunity to facilitate the Ag Innovation and Energy breakout session with about 20 farmers, ranchers, and other officials. Our discussion – which the President joined for a few minutes – touched on the importance of the renewable energy sector and new markets, as well as particular barriers to growing the rural economy through agricultural innovation.

Some in the audience expressed amazement that the President of the United States would spend an entire day – let alone a three-day bus trip – focusing on the needs of rural America. I am not surprised.

This president has repeatedly shown his commitment to the continued strength of small towns and rural areas. He is focused on innovation and small business development that will create jobs in rural areas and strengthen the middle class. And, he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to hear ideas and insights from the people who live in rural America.

The President's parting words in Peosta said it all:

Sometimes there are days in Washington that will drive you crazy. But getting out of Washington and meeting all of you, and seeing how hard you're working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are, that just makes me that much more determined to serve you as best I can as President of the United States.


During the trip, the President unveiled both a new small business support initiative to create rural jobs, and a $510 million initiative to boost rural industries for advanced biofuels.

There were four town halls: In Cannon Falls, Minn; in Decorah, Iowa; in Atkinson, Ill; and in Alpha, Ill.

Driving through the heartland on his high-tech black bus, the President made stops five kinds of pie, for ice cream, and for popcorn, and visted a County Fair in Illinois. The President had lunch with veterans and breakfast with small business owners. He was gifted with pie, and brought home gifts for Mrs. Obama.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House

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