Last week Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke with Farm Progress editor Jason Vance about the purpose and goals of the White House Rural Council that was formed earlier this year. On June 9 President Obama issued an Executive Order that created the White House Rural Council and named Secretary Vilsack as the chairman. Vilsack says that the establishment of the council underscores the President's belief that the country needs to focus on rural America and the positive things are coming from that sector. In addition to it being the source of our food and fiber, he pointed to the fact that rural America is an ever increasing source of clean water, fuel and energy, as well as a large part of the nation's military.
"I think there are a lot of good news stories that need to be acknowledged and appreciated while at the same time there are some serious, significant long-term challenges that rural America faces," Vilsack said. "So the President wants to make sure that with the Rural Council we ask the questions 'What have we done' for rural America, 'What do we need to do,' and 'How can we do a better job' of integrating the investments we as a government make to increase their impact."
Under the President's instructions Vilsack and other cabinet members have traveled throughout the country to listen to stakeholders. More than 30 meetings have already been held in rural areas and Administration officials will continue that effort moving forward.
In summarizing the goals of the White House Rural Council, Vilsack highlighted three points.
"People in rural America understand that historic investments have been made recently in rural communities," Vilsack said. "Two, that rural folks communicate effectively to those in the federal government what steps need to be taken in addition to those commitments and those things we may need to stop doing; and then finally the people of the United States see us within the federal government, within federal agencies doing a much better job of integrating and coordinating our investments both inside the government and with those outside to increase their impact."To listen to the complete interview with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack use the audio player on this page.