President Obama travels to Minnesota Monday to begin his three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest. He'll host a series of town hall meetings in several locations and will host along with members of the White House Rural Council a White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says this tour will give the President a tremendous opportunity while in these rural communities in the Midwest.
"It's a way of first and foremost acknowledging the importance that rural communities have for the country, giving the President an opportunity to visit with folks about their hopes and dreams and concerns and aspirations, so he can put all of the current circumstances in the proper context," Vilsack said. "That proper context I think is while we have our challenges and our difficulties, as people in rural communities know all too well, when we band together and work together there is nothing this country can't do."
Vilsack says we have certainly seen that in agriculture and the tremendous story of extraordinary productivity and that the rest of the world depends on American agriculture and it can depend on American ingenuity in a lot of other areas as well.
"Secondly, I think it is an opportunity for the President to task those who will be attending the forum with the challenge of giving us the most creative and thoughtful ideas that we should be pursuing and can be doing a better job of or less of in order to spur more economic opportunity."
Secretary Vilsack says that during the past two and a half years USDA has accomplished much to aid rural America, from expanding broadband service to building health and education facilities and from helping power companies get energy to where it is most needed to helping build up the bioenergy industry.
"This is a story in just one aspect of one department of the federal government so there is a story to be told," Vilsack said. "Just think what we could do if we could leverage these resources with the private sector, and how much more we could do if we developed ways in which capital could be infused into business and the President is going to challenge all of us to think about how we can generate more activity."