Secretary Vilsack Receives Applause for Farm-Grown Renewable Energy at Commodity Classic and Town Hall Broadcast
Earlier this month, Secretary Tom Vilsack received a warm welcome from the record breaking crowd of more than 6,000 farmers, ranchers and farm industry leaders at the General Session of the 2012 Commodity Classic in Nashville. The night before, an audience of more than 250 farmers, conservationists, renewable energy experts, farm-industry leaders and students packed the Secretary’s Town Hall Meeting, “Blueprint for a Rural America Built to Last,” broadcast live on Rural TV with questions coming in from callers in 18 states and a nationwide audience.
Both events included spirited discussion on the future of commodity prices, crop insurance and other details for the next Farm Bill being considered by Congress this year. However, the biggest applause and cheers came at both events when the Secretary answered questions on farm-based renewable energy.
“Americans don’t make excuses. We solve problems,” said Vilsack. “Rural America has helped reduce dependence on foreign oil to less than 50 percent. The lowest it’s been in years. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rely on the Midwest instead of the Middle East? Let’s not send our sons and daughters to faraway lands to fill our gas tanks.”
“The struggle for today is not just about today, it’s about the vast tomorrow,” Vilsack said.
Before the broadcast the Secretary met with students and faculty from Whites Creek High School’s Public Service Academy who presented some of their own research on renewable energy and conservation. Student Evan Taylor has been exploring the potential of algae as a bioenergy feedstock. During the broadcast Secretary Vilsack answered his questions about how USDA research dollars are allocated among competing renewable fuel feed stocks.
Students from Glencliff High School were also on hand. They have established a notable community garden and urban fresh-food demonstration project at their school. They quizzed the Secretary about USDA’s Know Your Farmer regional food systems initiative and the agency’s other work to improve nutrition in public schools and low income urban neighborhoods.
Afterwards, the Secretary took time to meet with a number of young farmers, and with FFA students from Westview High School and Tennessee State University who had also participated in the Town Hall telecast.
According to Secretary Vilsack the unprecedented productivity of American farmers and ranchers already makes a tremendous contribution to the nation’s international trade balance. With the research and ingenuity going into development of bio-fuel production, the contribution of rural communities is bound to grow even greater.
“This is the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had,” said Vilsack. “Not just to lead the American economy but to lead the world. To feed the world.”