Denver, CO – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed efforts to improve rural Colorado’s economy at the Senate Agriculture Committee’s first hearing this year.
Bennet, who requested a seat on the Agriculture Committee because of the tremendous importance of agriculture and rural communities to Colorado, asked Vilsack for his view on steps the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can take to help boost Colorado’s rural economy. Vilsack addressed the declining population in rural communities and highlighted the need to expand access to broadband in rural communities, take advantage of the new energy economy, develop local supply chains, maximize conservation resources, create verifiable and credible ecosystem markets, and expand access to credit and attract venture capital in rural areas.
Vilsack said, “I think the things that we can…are to continue to expand access to broadband, so that farmers and ranchers have access to real time information and make real time decisions; small businesses can expand their markets from local and regional markets to global markets; schools can do a better job of offering a multitude of course selections that they might not otherwise be able to afford to provide; and health care centers can link with specialists that would be impossible for them to afford on a day-to-day basis.”
He continued, “We absolutely need to embrace this new energy future, whether it’s fuel or renewable energy, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in rural communities. Most of the renewable energy is going to be produced in rural America, and we need to figure out how to maximize the economic return of that for rural residents. Then finally, I think you’ve got to be concerned about credit and the ability to attract venture capital into rural communities, so that you’ve got a sense of entrepreneurship. That’s a real challenge. … I think we need to be very creative about how we get venture capital into those areas.”
For video from the hearing, click here.