June 9th, 2011
01:00 PM ET
(Washington) CNN–Ahead of the 2012 election and amid more bad unemployment news, the Obama administration Thursday announced a new program to focus government resources building economic growth and the improving the quality of life in rural America. Nearly 60 million Americans, or just over 20 percent of the U.S. population, live in rural areas.
That's a big chunk of the electorate but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who will head the White House Rural Council, bristled when asked if the establishment of this program is to appeal to those rural voters. "[T]his is about the fact that so many folks in rural America have deep concerns about the future of rural America," Vilsack told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
Vilsack will coordinate the program that would bring all parts of the federal government and cabinet secretaries together to address job creation and economic development. "[It's] important to leverage and focus our resources within the federal government to know what the right hand is doing," said Vilsack.
To that end, Vilsack along with Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced they and other members of the president's cabinet would be traveling to rural areas, holding a series of workshops to hear from people who live in those communities and get their ideas on how to improve jobs and the economy. "
When you take the history of rural America over the last several decades, it has been a forgotten America," Salazar told reporters on the conference call. "This president has made sure it is not a forgotten America and we have been working on this agenda since day one."