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Restoring rural America primary goal for Ag Secretary

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Delta Council President Harry Simmons at DC annual meeting.
Harry Simmons, right, welcomes Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to the 82nd annual meeting of the Delta Council of Mississippi. Simmons is the outgoing president of the Delta Council.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue lays out plan for revitalizing rural America in speech at Delta Council annual meeting.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says there’s little doubt the urban areas of the U.S. are recovering from the “Great Recession.” The same can’t be said for the remaining 14 percent of the population who live in rural America.

According to economists, that recession began in December of 2007 and ran through 2010. During that time, almost 9 million jobs vanished from the U.S. economy and the GDP shrank by more than 5 percent, making it the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“While the rebound has been slow, most of America has recovered and is now ahead of where they were when the recession kicked in,” Perdue said. “But the same cannot be said for many pockets of our rural population, and that, ladies and gentlemen, concerns me and that is our challenge.”

Perdue, the former governor of Georgia who clearly reveled in addressing a southern audience, was the keynote speaker at the 82nd annual meeting of the Delta Council, the organization that represents agriculture and business in northwest Mississippi, which has sometimes been referred to as home of the some of the poorest counties in the country.

During the Delta Council annual meeting, also on the Delta State University campus, in 1947, then Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson laid out the principals for what became the Marshall Plan for the recovery of Europe from World War II.

On Friday (June 9) Secretary Perdue spoke about the need for a renewed effort to restore prosperity to the rural areas of America that have been left behind in the recovery since the end of the last recession.

“Today, sadly, nearly 85 percent of America’s persistently impoverished counties are not in the inner cities, but in rural areas,” he said. “One in four children live in poverty, a rate we’ve not seen since 1986. Deep poverty, which is defined as having income of less than half of the poverty threshold is more prevalent among children in rural areas than it is in urban areas.

“We hear a lot of attention in the media about the decaying inner cities, but we have situations out in rural areas that it is my absolute intention to address, and the president’s intention to address, as well.

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