Over the next nine months, President Obama has instructed the White House Rural Council, a Cabinet-level group led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to coordinate efforts by the Agriculture and Commerce departments, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and other agencies "to connect more rural businesses of all types to export information and assistance through a comprehensive strategy," the White House said in a fact sheet released today.
The White House announced a 7-point strategy will include hosting five "Made in Rural America" regional trade forums, and convening an "Investing in Rural America" conference later this year. USDA employees in all 50 states will receive training to "counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources." And there will be an effort to "coordinate across the Administration to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events including trade missions, buyer programs, trade shows, and other promotion programs."
Vilsack discussed manufacturing in rural America on Tuesday at the White House as he joined Press Secretary Jay Carney at the daily press briefing. The Agriculture Act of 2014, Vilsack said, "opens up a whole new vista of economic opportunity that has not existed before" for local and regional economies.
"It’s a whole new day here," Vilsack said. "And the great thing about this [the Farm Bill] is it can bring manufacturing into the rural communities...we have a component opportunity here with the resources of this farm bill and the direction of this farm bill to go out into rural areas and bring manufacturing back. And that’s a huge opportunity for us."
The seven strategy actions, in detail, from the White House fact sheet:
1. Host five “Made in Rural America” regional forums dedicated to promoting rural exports by providing rural leaders and businesses with information about federal and other resources available to help expand exports. Working with local partners including the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, these export-focused regional forums will help rural businesses take advantage of new market opportunities by providing training from experienced exporters and federal officials on the basics of exporting, accessing federal support, and participating in major trade events and trade shows across the country, as well as overseas trade missions.
2. Convene an “Investing in Rural America” conference later this year to connect major investors with rural business leaders, high-level government officials, economic development experts, and other partners. This conference, hosted by the White House Rural Council in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and other partners, will promote opportunities to invest in Rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy; biofuels and bioproducts; infrastructure, from transportation to water systems to telecommunications; healthcare; manufacturing; and local and regional food systems.
3. Host training sessions to equip local USDA Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the tools they need to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources. The Department of Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will cross-train USDA Rural Development staff so they can better deliver support or refer rural businesses to federal services.
4. Provide enhanced export counseling for rural businesses to connect with foreign buyers through the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Export Assistance Center trade specialists in over 100 domestic locations and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s field staff.
5. Coordinate across the Administration to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events including trade missions, buyer programs, trade shows, and other promotion programs.
6. Educate local leaders across the country on the importance of rural exports in partnership with NACo and through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee in order to connect these leaders with federal resources and information to better support rural businesses to develop their potential for exporting.
7. Use the BusinessUSA online platform to better connect rural businesses with export and investment resources and coordinate support from across the federal government. BusinessUSA was launched by the President last year to serve as a “one-stop-shop” that matches businesses and entrepreneurs to the full range of services and resources available to them at every stage of development.