Is rural America irrelevant?

By Gene Hall

Okay, I admit it.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack got my attention when he said rural America is becoming irrelevant.

“It’s time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America,” Vilsack said in a speech at a Farm Journal forum. “It’s time for a different thought process here, in my view.”

Vilsack was once the governor of Iowa, a Democrat, and he expressed his disappointment over squabbling in the farm sector. He said rural America should pick its political fights more carefully. Citing the lack of a farm bill as evidence, Vilsack hinted that rural America, which voted overwhelmingly Republican, is losing its influence.

“There’s a huge communication gap” between farmers and the food-eating public, he said.

The secretary has a point. Getting a farm bill passed in an election year is tough, but farm interests have always been able to get it done—until now. On the other hand, farmers, ranchers and rural America have always voted in greater numbers than their percentage of the population might suggest.  Agriculture votes, and always has. This habit can yield positive results if we don’t get distracted.

Vilsack suggests a good old-fashioned soul searching. He mentions that rural America does have assets—things like ample land for food production and recreation. Whether he’s right or not, that’s always a good idea. Let me add that agriculture has a message to sell, but not enough of us are active in promoting it. If rural America—and rural Texas—do not use the technology and the power of our own ideas to communicate with urban folks, relevance could become an issue.

“We’ve got something to market here,” Vilsack said. “We’ve got something to be proactive about. Let’s spend our time and our resources and our energy doing that, and I think if we do we’re going to have a lot of young people who want to be part of that future.”

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Responses to “Is rural America irrelevant?”

  1. Samuel Niesner says:

    You have to wonder were Vilsack is coming from. He talks about sqabbling in the farm sector yet this seems trivial compared to what is going on in the rest of the goverment.
    therer are many in the goverment who are trying to move our country in a socialist direction that many in the farming coummunity will not go along with. Is this were Vilsack is coming from?

  2. Irrelevant because farming is non-viable? I keep hearing farmers are standing in the way of immigration reform because farmers depend on the cheap labor. Also, I keep hearing how farmers are dependent on subsidies from the government. Admittedly I’m not a farmer and don’t understand the ins and outs. However, if those two are true then can I conclude that farmers can’t stand on their own two feet without help? Possibly some say this makes farmers irrelevant. I mean no offense, and I do want to understand this better.

  3. Grace Zimmerman says:

    There are too many people, who do not realize the huge transition that has taken place in agriculture. A Mom & Pop farm cannot stay alive with all the regulations forced upon their old-time methods of farming. At first glance, people only see the big tractors and equipment, which is necessary to compete with money borrowed from the big banks so family farms can stay in business. That’s only the “tip of the iceberg” as to why farmers are becoming irrevelant because nobody sends out the REAL message

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