U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue gave the keynote addresses on increasing job growth in rural America at Friday’s Delta Council Meeting at the Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland.
"The business side of what y'all do here at the Delta Council is so important. Having been formed in 1935, focusing then on economic development at that time, and also looking to the future is also critical as we go forward. What they did then and what you do now is assemble the best and the brightest and hardest working folks from agriculture, business-related professions and look for ways to improve the lives of citizens," said Perdue.
Perdue voiced concerns about economic plight of the vast number of rural areas in the country.
"According to our most recent figures, just over 46 million Americans live in what we would consider rural communities. That's about 14 percent of the U.S. population, but believe it or not about 78 percent of our land area. This gives us a lot of elbow room for growth and economic growth is what we surely need in rural America," said Perdue
He added the economy in rural areas has not recovered from the great recession.
"Our rebound has been slow. Most of America has recovered, and is now ahead of where they were when the recession kicked in. But the same cannot be said for many pockets of our rural population, and that ladies and gentlemen concerns me and that's our challenged," said Perdue.
The secretary laid out four key points on what he believes will drive economic vitality and prosperity in rural community.
The secretary's first point was to collaborate more between the United States Department of Agriculture and every department of the federal government.
"We need more not less people at the federal level, at the state level, the local level, the private sector, and the public sector coming together for the benefit of all of us. It's all of our responsibility to participate. The better collaboration we have, the better prosperity we will have in the future," said Perdue.
He mentioned his position as chair of a new federal task force on agriculture and rural prosperity and said, "The taskforce is made up of a number of cabinet secretaries from 20 different federal departments and agencies. We are going to be looking at problems facing rural America and find solutions.
“We're going to work on ideas like quality of life issue like access to medical care. We're going to empower an educated and qualified workforce in our rural community just like you're doing here, to make companies know if they expand, they're going to get a hardworking work ethic and a loyal.”
His second point focused on eliminating what he referred to as unnecessary regulations.
"The president has created a regulatory reform taskforce; every agency will look at excessive regulations that are job killers and stifle our growth. At USDA we're business, I have one person dedicated to cataloging all the existing regulation and asking some pretty simple questions, Does the regulation make sense? Is the result worth the extra requirements on people, and will it help us grow jobs in the economy? If the answer to each of these is not yes, then we must ask, What is the regulation for and why do we have it?”
He said the government must stop placing obstacles and tell people what they can't do. He said citizens must encourage government to not place barriers around job creation and prosperity.
His third point was on innovations and mentioned Trump plans to invest in infrastructure.
"Yesterday, I was at the White House talking to the president, developers, and mayors from around the country about infrastructure. We must partner with our states; our regions like the Mississippi Delta that we know are destined for the right infrastructure projects. We want a strong return and investment to create jobs and grow the economy," said Perdue.
His last point was about celebrating America, which he spelled sellbrate.
"We have a hungry world that wants good USDA stamped products, they're waiting for it. We're going to go around the world and develop free and fair trade policies for the producers of American goods can benefit from the hungry world out that, wanting what we grow.”
In closing he revealed that he would be working closely with the Director of Rural Development for USDA to tackle job growth in rural areas.