Rural Tour: Renewing America’s Promise

Concerts, comedians and a variety of shows regularly travel the nation to educate and entertain. Most recently, the president’s Rural Tour has been making pit stops throughout the U.S. to elicit feedback about and support for government involvement in programs to better rural America.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is spearheading the awareness initiative that began June 30. The tour, designed to facilitate conversation via a blend of education outreach and community forum feedback, is part of the Obama Administration’s plan to “renew America’s promise.”

According to the USDA, “The variety of topics that will be addressed reflects the array of issues facing rural America, including broad-based rural health, economic development, infrastructure, education, energy, natural resources and agriculture.”

At each stop, Vilsack, alongside local elected officials, discusses how the USDA and other federal agencies are working to strengthen rural America by means of current and proposed government programs. Attendees then have an opportunity to voice opinions, suggestions and concerns in efforts to promote a dialogue between government and constituents.

“Government does not have all the answers, but it can help share innovative ideas and problem-solving techniques from communities with the rest of the country,” Vilsack said. “Building a foundation for success and prosperity for the new 21st-century economy will take a collective and collaborative effort with all of us talking, debating and solving together.”

Vilsack encourages citizens to “call, e-mail, write, videotape, photograph, you name it,” to offer input about the state of rural America.

Highlighted agricultural topics include rural broadband access, climate-change legislation and forest management, with emphasis on localized concerns.

Discussions involved ag-debt restructuring in Iowa, obstacles facing the dairy industry in California, carbon sequestration in Virginia and creating business-relationship opportunities among food industry entities in Ohio.

Scottsbluff, Neb., will welcome the tour this week to discuss production agriculture, and Las Cruces, N.M., will conclude the nine-stop circuit with a discussion aimed at rural infrastructure.

You can get more information and updates about the Rural Tour at or at Twitter or Facebook.

A summary of the tour can be viewed in a YouTube video created by the USDA.

Is the Rural Tour a success? Should other states/topics have been included for discussion? Can members of the agricultural industry model a similar tour for industry-specific topics in the future?

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