Secretary of Agriculture in Zanesville

Local News

One of Barack Obama’s top cabinet officials made a stop in Zanesville today.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a town hall meeting at the Muskingum County Welcome Center as part of his “Rural Tour.” Vilsack joined by Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Zack Space, took questions from a standing-room only audience.

“It’s an opportunity for me to listen and to learn and perhaps to provide some information about what the USDA is doing. We like to think of ourselves as an everyday, every way USDA and I think you might be surprised as the day goes on how many activities we’re engaged and involved in,” says Vilsack.

Vilsack highlighted the USDA’s efforts in Ohio using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act during his 18th stop in the tour. During the forum audience members asked a variety of questions including animal idenitfication programs, rural rental housing, the “cap and trade” bill and food safety.

Also in attendance was Ohio’s first lady Francis Strickland, Mayor Butch Zwelling, the Muskingum County Commissioners, State Representative Troy Balderson and State Representative Dan Dodd.

After the town hall meeting, when Vilsack was asked what the biggest problem is facing Southeastern Ohio his answer was short and simple.

“Three words: Jobs jobs and jobs”

Vilsack says our area is going through a rough time as new industries are emerging.

“This has been an area that is transitioning in its economy and when you transition it’s tough, because you lose the jobs in the old economy as the new jobs in the new jobs of the new economy are just in the process of coming on board,” he says.

Congressman Space says the lack of jobs stems from several issues.

“We’ve got an educational access issue, a health care access issue, infrastructure development issue, technology issues that we must overcome,” says Space.

There are still people in our area and other rural communities do not have access to basic things like broadband Internet services or clean water, putting residents at a disadvantage.

Though our area is going through a lot of turmoil right now over time the men say over time they expect the future of rural america to be bright.

“What the Congress is doing and what the president is doing is creating a foundation for a different and more prosperous rural America. Broadband, energy, climate change off-sets, local production/local consumption, those four cornerstones if you will of a new economy. Tremendous opportunities, it’s the best I’ve seen in a long time to actually bring prosperity back to rural areas,” says Vilsack.

Senator Brown says he see economic opportunities in clean energy production.

“Ohio is on its way with manufacturing with bio mass with agriculture of becoming the silicon valley of alternative energy of leading the country in alternative energy, green energy, green jobs, clean energy jobs,” says Brown.

As the billions of dollars in economic stimulus money starts to have an impact Space believes our area will rebound.

“We can overcome these problems. We can thrive and we can become stronger than we’ve ever been.”

If you were unable to attend Monday’s town hall meeting you can still have a question answered by the USDA www.ruraltour.gov