Top Obama Administration Official Visits UK

Jan 16, 2014

During a visit to UK, U-S Ag. Secy. Tom Vilsack said he remains hopeful that a long-delayed farm bill will eventually get passed by Congress.

U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Credit USA Today

The top Obama administration official told students, faculty, and agriculture leaders that there is too much at stake not to move forward.

"That bill isn't just a farm bill, it's a jobs bill, it's a research bill, it's a conservation bill, it's a forestry bill, it's an energy bill, and it's an opportunity bill for every single American," he said.

The Obama Administration has called for Congress to pass a five-year comprehensive farm bill but it's been held up by Republicans over what used to be called food stamps but is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka SNAP.

The Secretary also expressed optimism that the President's recently announced Promise Zone Initiative will particularly benefit rural areas.

"We're breaking down silos that have existed historically with the Farm Service, and the Rural Development , the NRCS and assistance programs, and they're collaborating, working with community building organizations in areas of persistent poverty and saying 'how can we help?'...so it's a new way of doing business."

Eight Eastern Kentucky counties have been identified as one of those promise zones.  Secretary Vilsack says his agency stands ready to help in any way with innovative ideas.

"We'll bring AmeriCorps volunteers down to assist and help in staffing that new opportunity, we'll provide those counties, and projects within those counties, preference points or priority points in any competitive grant program that they may be interested in competing in, and I will tell you that's a big deal.  If you are given extra points because you happen to be in a Promise Zone you go from not getting funded to getting funded."

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation will serve as the program’s administrator and will work closely with Alison Davis with the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky on various projects.