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U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote a long op-ed for the Des Moines (Iowa) Register where he outlined “six approaches” for improving rural economies. “Rural America needs to be renewed,” Vilsack wrote, and thinking of the economy regionally (instead of town to town or county to county) is the key. “The framework of the new effort recognizes that the rural economy of tomorrow will be a regional economy,” Vilsack wrote. “No one community will prosper in isolation.” 

Clearly, the USDA is gearing up to provide its programs to regions rather than communities. “USDA will help regions prepared to pool their resources and talent with grants to develop comprehensive strategic plans designed to promote real growth,” Vilsack wrote. And the Ag Secretary outlined six “approaches” his agency will follow.

Vilsack wants to expand exports and promote biofuels and renewable energy. He wants to “link local farm production to local consumption” and he intends to “bring broadband to rural America.” Vilsack will promote tourism, especially outdoor recreation, and he says rural landowners should “take full advantage of ecosystem markets” such as the market for carbon sequestration that could open for farmers if a cap and trade bill passes Congress. 

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