In the days after the Super Bowl it is not unusual for spectators to “Monday morning quarterback” the advertisements, as well as the plays that were called. For the members of two renewable fuels industries, however, there was no disputing the message of the now famous “God made a farmer” ad featuring Paul Harvey. Last week in Las Vegas, the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Biodiesel Board both led off their meetings with this ad before Secretary Vilsack spoke. It became a starting point to discuss the Secretary’s compelling vision for rebuilding the rural economy, furthering efforts to develop advanced new biofuels, and creating more jobs in our small towns to grow and strengthen the middle class.
Secretary Vilsack shared his personal motivation for building rural vitality, which stems from being a small town Iowa lawyer in the 1980’s, first helping farmers do their taxes and later helping others weather that economic farm crisis that led to too many losing their farms.
Moving forward more than twenty-five years, Secretary Vilsack highlighted today’s modern, inspiring rural America – and offered a reminder that rural America provides a great deal to everyone across our nation. Rural America provides an abundant and safe food supply, growing more than 85 percent of the food our nation consumes. Rural America provides clean water and soil, with more than 80 percent of the potable water that is domestically consumed first being filtered through U.S. Forest Service watersheds as well as privately owned lands in rural areas. It provides a majority of America’s fuel and energy – both through traditional means and by producing groundbreaking biofuels. And he discussed how rural values stand at the heart of our national values. Rural Americans understand that you can’t just take from the nation that has given us all so much – you have to give back. That’s perhaps why our nation’s military is disproportionately represented by folks from rural America.
Secretary Vilsack shared with the renewable fuels leaders his belief in their work and his expectations for them – that they are at the leading edge of creating an amazing new bio-based economy that will create jobs and opportunity across rural America. The innovation and entrepreneurship that they have demonstrated in turning not only grain, but agricultural waste, algae, and other forms of advanced biomass into biofuels is just the start. Secretary Vilsack highlighted new research into groundbreaking new plastics, chemicals, polymers, and other bio-based products that he wants to see produced throughout rural America – and believe me, USDA Rural Development, with our ability to finance infrastructure, housing, and business development, shares his vision.
Secretary Vilsack’s belief in the future of the biobased economy is one part of his vision for a thriving rural America in the years to come. He shared with the renewable fuels leaders that USDA’s efforts to open new markets and new opportunity for biobased products is just the first of four important pillars that we’ll focus on this year. Second, we’ll continue expanding export markets to further strengthen production agriculture. Third, we will help rural communities and landowners enhance their conservation efforts and create more jobs related to outdoor recreation – which together are worth billions in revenue and priceless benefits in terms of topsoil and species saved, and pollution avoided. Finally we will look to create new markets for local and regional food system development, which gives the small farmer a way into the market while increasing Americans’ access to fresh, healthy local foods.
The Secretary’s final point really stuck with me as well — that he wants rural America to join in turning the tide of our nation from a country that primarily consumes, to one that grows, creates, and produces even more. Secretary Vilsack outlined in Las Vegas the unlimited opportunity that our rural communities can achieve – and how rural America will continue to strengthen our nation as a whole. He knows that the hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship of rural America will be critical to building a new bio-based economy, and supporting new markets for new innovation to ensure rural America is a great place to live, work and raise a family for generations to come. Right on, Mr. Secretary.
To find out more about USDA’s commitment to development and production of renewable, sustainable energy resources click here.