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Posts tagged: Rural Summit

USDA Broadband Report Highlights Role of the Recovery Act in Bringing Connectivity to Rural America

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Today I released our first comprehensive report on USDA’s deployment of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for rural broadband.  It showed that the 68 investments we have already made will bring broadband access to an estimated 530,000 households, 93,000 businesses, and 3,300 anchor institutions like hospitals, schools, community centers and libraries.  They will create 5,000 jobs immediately. And they will cover an area larger than the state of California. Read more »

The National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue of Renewing Promise

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

By Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

As the Obama Administration National Rural Summit came to a close yesterday, there was a general feeling of hope for the future of America’s rural communities. But there was also a sense that a host of partners – federal, state, and local governments, non-profit and for-profit entities, and most of all the good people who live in rural America – must work together to bring about the change our rural communities so deserve.

One of our panelists, Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, acknowledged that although the day’s conversation had covered a breadth of important topics, challenges still lay ahead for rural America. The wide range of issues that will be involved in driving the economic revitalization of rural America span not only several government departments and agencies, but also hit home in every community across the country. With only a limited time to discuss the topics concerning rural communities at the summit, I encourage the public to keep the conversation going to ensure a successful future for the rural economy. That can be done as simply as talking with a neighbor, or by offering your ideas to the White House by visiting the Open Government Initiative.

One underlying theme of our conversations yesterday was the importance of educating the public about rural America in order to get our rural communities the attention and support they need to thrive. Over the last year, Deputy Secretary Merrigan and I have visited almost all 50 states, in an attempt to focus attention on the pursuit of the American dream within rural communities, and to illustrate how far around the country the reaches of rural America go. But this can only go so far. The conversation needs to extend into all of our communities, so folks understand that the strength of this nation relies on the strength of our rural communities.

Rural America plays an important role in our nation’s value system, which can be seen from family to family across countryside communities. Almost all of our founding fathers had rural upbringings, and a rural mindset imbued our foundational documents. In his remarks, Dr. Cummiskey, President of Jefferson College where the Summit was held, recalled a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “…there seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war,.. the second by commerce… and the third by agriculture, the only honest way.

There is still truth in Benjamin Franklin’s words. Small towns across this nation are filled with fundamentally good people who are raising their families and instilling a strong set of values in their children. They are generous and compassionate people, hard working, playing by the rules. They are everything we try to teach our kids to be.

And so we owe it to these folks to help them chart a better future for their families. I think if our country takes a few minutes – and if we can focus our attention on rural America – then I think our potential is unlimited. I foresee a day in rural America where the entrepreneur can prosper, where more and more of our energy is being produced on our farms. I foresee a day with prosperous main streets in small towns across the nation. I see a day when parents can turn to their sons and daughters and tell them they don’t have to travel far from home to experience the American dream – but that they can live it right here in rural America.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at the opening session of the National Rural Summit held at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, MO. June 3, 2010. (by Alice Welch)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at the opening session of the National Rural Summit held at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, MO. June 3, 2010. (by Alice Welch)

A Dialogue on Rural America was the first discussion panel held at the National Rural Summit. (Panelists L to R Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President Aneesh Chopra, President of Show Me Energy Steve Flick, President of National Corn Growers Association Darrin Ihnen, Past President of National Association of Conservation Districts John Redding, Mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi James Young, Agriculture Broadcaster at WGN radio Max Armstrong, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). June 3, 2010. (by Alice Welch)
A Dialogue on Rural America was the first discussion panel held at the National Rural Summit. (Panelists L to R Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President Aneesh Chopra, President of Show Me Energy Steve Flick, President of National Corn Growers Association Darrin Ihnen, Past President of National Association of Conservation Districts John Redding, Mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi James Young, Agriculture Broadcaster at WGN radio Max Armstrong, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). June 3, 2010. (by Alice Welch)

Ag and Community Leaders Meet at the National Rural Summit to Outline the Future of the Rural Economy

By Liz Purchia, Press Assistant

A crowd of all ages gathered in the Jefferson College Field House this morning for the Obama administration’s National Rural Summit.  The audience listened as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, along with several other esteemed panelists, took the stage to discuss the silent crisis facing rural America today. On a beautiful June day, more than 400 people listened intently as industry and community leaders outlined a roadmap for revitalization in rural communities.

Secretary Vilsack started out the day reminding everyone in attendance – and those watching on the webcast across the nation – that ranchers, farmers, and residents of rural America play a crucial role in the prosperity of our nation as a whole.   The contributions that rural Americans make to every family in this country are far-reaching.  One in every 12 jobs in the nation is created by agriculture. Americans from every town and city rely on the strong system of values rooted in rural communities. And although rural America is home to about 20 percent of nation’s population, more than 45 percent of America’s service men and women were raised in rural America.

However, it is no secret that these small towns are in need of revitalization.  In the last five years, we have lost 40,000 medium-sized farming operations.  Rural Americans earn less than their urban counterparts, rural populations are declining and aging, and fewer folks are earning advanced degrees.  Secretary Vilsack outlined the five pillars that make up the framework for a new rural economy.  He joined audience members and panelists to discuss the ways in which these strategies will positively affect those living, working and raising families in rural communities.

One audience member said it is the ability to adapt and change that brings promise to rural communities. Those sentiments were echoed among the group. Darrin Inhen, president of the National Corn Growers Association, suggested that ethanol offers growth opportunities to expand the role of agriculture in America’s energy independence. James Young, Mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, said bringing high-speed internet access to rural towns is vital to allow a direct line of communication with the rest of the world.

John Redding, former president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, reminded everyone that rural communities must flourish to protect the environmental future of our country. Looking to his granddaughter Lucy to illustrate the importance of a strong rural economy, Redding said, “I do what I do because of my Lucy. You do what you do because of your Lucy. That’s what’s at stake here.”

Secretary Vilsack affectionately dubbed rural communities the soul of America, vital to the successes of our nation as a whole, and as James Young said: “Quitting is not an option. Giving up is not an option. Stopping is not an option. People in rural communities know this. We are going to continue to grow, because it is in us to grow.”

Summit participants had the opportunity to further discuss the ideas touched on briefly during the morning session throughout the afternoon in six different breakout sessions. The six tracks the attendees got to explore were:

•Building Infrastructure for a 21st Century Rural Economy
•Expanding Opportunities for Rural Businesses
•Renewable Energy and Biofuels
•Farm Competitiveness and Productivity
•Forest Restoration
•Rural Recreation and Private Land Conservation
•Regional Food Systems and Nutrition.

The conversation was productive and wide ranging.  But everyone assembled reaffirmed the promise they see in rural America, and expressed hope at the Obama administration’s commitment to building a more prosperous future for rural communities.

Check back for the National Summit wrap-up later today as the attendees and panelists finish the discussion for rural America’s revitalization.

Listening to Rural Communities – A National Summit on Rural America

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

Tomorrow I will travel to Hillsboro, Missouri to host the Obama Administration’s National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise. The event will feature a broad conversation with key policymakers and community leaders to explore the priorities and policies necessary to strengthen America’s rural communities. Read more »