This week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last -- an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
The President and I believe that this is a make or break moment for the middle class. What's at stake is the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.
To keep that promise alive, we need an economy that makes, creates and innovates. But the economic security of the middle class has been slipping away for decades. The average American's paycheck isn't keeping up with their costs. And in 2008, the economic crisis taught us that an economy built on financial instruments and bad debt could collapse like a house of cards.
Since then, this administration has fought to create jobs and build an economy for the long term. We've added 3.2 million private sector jobs over the last 22 months.
In the past 3 years at USDA, we have helped more than 450,000 rural families buy or refinance a home, and provided grants and loans to help over 50,000 small rural businesses create and saving 266,000 jobs. And unemployment rates in rural areas are falling faster than other areas of the country.
Farmers and ranchers have seen the benefits of this back to basics approach. American agriculture invested in technology and skills that led to record productivity, record exports, and record incomes.
Rural communities have adopted the President's call to pursue new energy solutions. At USDA, we are working with scientists, farmers and entrepreneurs to help develop a nationwide biofuels economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the countryside.
To build an economy that will last the long term we must continue this progress. That is why the President presented new ideas for how our students and workers can get the education and training they need so they're ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
And most importantly, the President called for a return to American Values -- of fairness for all, and responsibility from all. That's how we'll keep our promise to the middle class and rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded -- an economy built to last.