The Norman Transcript

Local news

September 17, 2009

Agriculture secretary bullish on rural America

EL RENO -- As part of a "Rural Tour" of America, assigned to him by President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa and a lawyer, made a stop before a large group of people assembled at Redlands Community College in El Reno.

The visit to El Reno, his only "Rural Tour" stop in Oklahoma, is the 19th stop on the tour, following stops in towns ranging from Bethel, Alaska, to St. John Parish, La. During the tour, Vilsack has made it his goal to listen to rural folks and discuss ways to better rural life and communities.

"It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about Oklahoma's vision for its future and to collect ideas about how USDA can better serve these communities," Vilsack said.

Set in a town hall type format, Vilsack made opening remarks about the goals of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and how it is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.

Vilsack discussed a new USDA initiative called "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food," which he said was to help spur economic opportunities in rural areas by helping develop local and regional food systems.

He also addressed the USDA's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are under way in Oklahoma and across America.

More than 1,500 Rural Development loans worth $165 million in Oklahoma have been accepted, and there are many programs and grants that are being used in rural America as a result of USDA's pro-rural community efforts.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, a question was asked about the future that faces young people looking for a career in agriculture.

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