OMAHA (DTN) -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has apparently sold President Joe Biden on his whiteboard speech about diversifying farm income and the rural economy.
The White House this week will start making a push to barnstorm across rural America with a series of events that begins Wednesday when the president visits a farm in Minnesota.
The White House on Sunday laid explained the president and several cabinet members "will barnstorm across the country to highlight how 'Bidenomics' and the 'President's Investing in America' agenda are ensuring rural Americans do not have to leave their hometowns to find opportunity."
The effort appears as an attempt to counter the fact that rural Americans are increasingly voting for Republicans in recent elections and criticism from conservative media outlets over issues such as inflation. Instead, the White House wants to highlight the increases in infrastructure and rural energy investments that have happened under Biden's presidency.
The president, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other officials will highlight how investments such as climate-smart agriculture "are bringing new revenue to farmers, increased economic development in rural towns and communities and more opportunity throughout the country."
Anyone who has seen Vilsack speak over the past few months has seen him use a whiteboard to point out that even though farm income hit a record $183 billion last year, only about 11% of farmers received the bulk of that income. Vilsack has championed more diversified income opportunities through carbon credits, rural renewable energy, bio-based products such as sustainable aviation fuel, local meat-processing and food production facilities and more domestic fertilizer production. Vilsack has used the whiteboard speech to counter the argument that the only way for producers to make income is to get bigger.
"So instead of just having commodities crops, livestock and government payments, you got climate-smart agriculture, you got ecosystem service markets, you've got electricity, you got processing capacity, you got local regional food markets, you've got a procurement opportunity, and you have reduced fertilizer and you have conversion of ag waste into a variety of different products," Vilsack said at an event in northern Iowa in mid-October.
He added, "And now as an entrepreneurial option, you got a small and mid-sized operation that's got checks coming in from the REC (Rural Electric Co-op), or an ecosystem service market, or a value-added proposition. Selling directly, getting a better price."
Vilsack added, "So that's the goal. So, for this to happen, we're, I think we have to in the countryside, have to decide whether we're okay with 'get bigger or get out,' or whether we want an entrepreneurial option, an option."
The White House said Sunday that Biden and other members of his administration will travel to rural communities across the country in the coming weeks to highlight investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law such as "high-speed internet, safe roads and bridges, modern wastewater systems, clean drinking water, and reliable and affordable electricity." Administration officials also will stress investments from the Inflation Reduction Act, especially the $19.5 billion directed to climate-smart agriculture.
Biden and Vilsack on Wednesday will visit Dutch Creek Farms near Northfield, Minn., about 30 minutes south of the Minneapolis metro area. Vilsack will then travel to Indiana on Thursday to speak to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) national convention to talk about "opportunities for the next generation of agricultural leaders."
Vilsack also is planning travel to Colorado and Wyoming to highlight ways of "helping protect and conserve our lands for future generations."
USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small will visit Wisconsin and Michigan to champion rural economic development initiatives as well.
The White House detailed some travel plans for multiple Cabinet members in the coming weeks. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm also will have stops in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. Haaland will visit Wyoming to speak at the Western Governors Association meeting. U.S. Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai will travel to Indiana to talk about "efforts to support rural communities through international trade by ensuring that the benefits of trade reach farmers and producers."
The White House spotlighted efforts to spend $1 billion to expand meat and poultry processing capacity as well as efforts to spend $900 million to increase domestic fertilizer production. So far, USDA has awarded $121 million for 30 different fertilizer projects.
White House fact sheet: https://www.whitehouse.gov/…
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