White House Rural Council Unveils Economic Boosts

Memorandums signed for biobased product purchases, rural jobs and health technology.

Published on: Feb 22, 2012

President Obama on Tuesday signed a memorandum directing the federal government to increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years.

"We know there are over 3,000 companies, many of them located in rural America, that are currently taking what we grow and what we raise and producing more than 20,000 biobased products helping to employ nearly 100,000 people," Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "We think and the President believes that there is an unlimited potential for these markets and these products in the biobased economy and that we need to do everything we can right now to expand opportunity."

Vilsack says that over 500 of these products are now being certified by USDA's voluntary biobased labeling program, giving consumers choices that support rural America. However Tuesday's announcement was about the federal government as a purchaser under the Bio-preferred program.

"The President has established through a memorandum a directive to USDA and other federal agencies, first and foremost to increase the number of categories available so federal agencies will know what products are involved in the Bio-preferred project," Vilsack said. "Currently we have 65 categories. The President has directed us to increase that by 25 this year and then over the course of the next several years increasing it by another 20 categories."

Vilsack says that will allow the doubling of the over 9,000 products that are already on the catalog and meet the President's challenge to accelerate the purchase of these products.

During the press call two other actions by the Administration were announced. Commerce Secretary John Bryson announced the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a multi-agency competition that will concentrate on regional innovation clusters and focus on collaboration.

"We know that when rural America is growing America as a whole is getting stronger," Bryson said. "We are going to find out where there is the greatest potential to maximize regional strengths helping businesses in those areas create more jobs."

Also announced was the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signing a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics.