Since the establishment of the White House Rural Council in June, President Barack Obama, a number of senior Administration officials and I met with folks throughout the country to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing rural America. By hosting the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa, as part of the President’s three-day Bus Tour in August, in addition to nearly 200 roundtable discussions with business and agricultural leaders in rural communities, we learned what rural Americans think are the most important issues to ensure that their future is bright and prosperous.
A summary of the places we visited and many of things we learned is encapsulated in the White House Rural Council feedback report (pdf), which is now available.
To be sure that we heard the voices of rural Americans from every corner of the nation, Obama Administrations officials traveled to 46 states and held nearly 200 forums to determine how folks in Washington, D.C. can improve our efforts on creating jobs and spurring economic growth. We heard from local citizens on several key topics ranging from ways to build small business and strengthen the middle class in rural America, to plans for building economic opportunity for rural business through infrastructure investment. From these discussions, we were able to not only identify key themes and issues but also identify ways in which to improve our country.
In the report, you can read about some of the most important issues we discussed, including education, government programs and regulations, and infrastructure, which were the top three most frequently mentioned citizen concerns. This Administration continues to work on these critical issues– from addressing the challenges rural schools face to streamlining regulations to increasing broadband access.
And earlier this month, the President unveiled the American Jobs Act to grow the economy and create jobs. Americans living in rural communities know well that the specific ideas in the bill work. The small businesses that employee most rural Americans know that the tax cuts in the bill will mean more work, so they can expand and hire. And every working rural family will benefit from money back in their pockets.
Most importantly, folks in rural America know that in difficult times, we need to come together to hammer out a solution that benefits everyone. And elected leaders in Washington need to do the same as they work to support job growth and build a stronger future for all Americans.
The work that has been done by the Rural Council over these past few months, as well as those who participated in these meetings, will only serve to benefit the future of rural America now that we’ve heard your concerns and aspirations. I am eager and honored to address these issues with the Council in the coming months so that rural America will continue to thrive as the backbone of our nation.
Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.