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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been riding with the president and joins us live this morning from Dubuque, Iowa. Of course, he is the former governor the Iowa.
And, you know, Governor and Secretary Vilsack, this is the time every few years when Iowans feel really popular, don't they?
TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Well, it does attract a lot of folks from outside the state. That's for sure.
ROMANS: Is the president on -- is this a campaign style swing or is this a presidential "I have a jobs plan" and this is the first piece of it? What is it? Because the Republicans have criticized him saying that the president is campaigning.
VILSACK: Well, this president made a historic commitment to rural America by signing executive order establishing a rural council, the first cabinet level council dedicated to rural areas ever in our history and this is a continuation of the council's work. He instructed his cabinet members and administration officials to travel around the country, to listen and to learn about steps that we could take to put more activity, more economic opportunity in rural America.
And so, yesterday, we began the process of announcing a series of things that will be announced over the course of the next couple of weeks, including what you refer to which is a doubling of SBA's commitment and loan opportunities for small businesses in rural areas, as well as a unique partnership we'll have with the Department of Labor to get information about jobs out to our farm service offices that are located everywhere in rural America.
ROMANS: Do these --
VILSACK: So, this is all about policy. It's --
ROMANS: I'm sorry to interrupt. Do these small businesses need loads or they do need demand? They need economy that's working better and is this $350 million, the president's big plan that we are waiting for for how to create jobs?
VILSACK: This is -- this is the beginning of a series of proposals that will essentially establish a new economic opportunity within the rural parts of this country. It's not the plan. It's part of a larger commitment the president is going to make.
Later this afternoon, or this morning, I'll be visiting with Secretary Cho and Ray Nabus on a very interesting and unique partnership that we've developed in the energy area. And you're going to see a series of these things over the course of the next several weeks.
The combination of them is designed to say a message that we are back in business and we have tremendous opportunity here to promote innovation, particularly in rural areas.
ROMANS: Because, you know, people want a big -- they want a big solution. They want a big plan that they think is going to work that's going to create jobs, because when you take the debt ceiling debate, when you take all of this other political rhetoric in Washington at its core is the fact we have 9.1 percent unemployment rate and people want to know that this White House or whoever is running against this president has the solution.
Does this president in this White House have the solution to fix the jobs crisis?
VILSACK: It does and it can be simply stated. Obviously, we are going to be government that spends less but we are going to invest wisely and infrastructure and research and development. We're going to become a nation that makes, creates and innovates. And we're going to be able to export more effectively.
And the proof of this concept is in agriculture. What we are seeing in agriculture is probably the best year agriculture has ever seen in terms of income, the highest level of ag exports generating jobs here in America and been a bottom lines for farmers.
So, the formula is in rural America. And the president is going to have component parts of that formula laid out over the course of the next couple of days here in the forum and over the next several weeks.
ROMANS: Do you think ethanol subsidies survive in this new era of budget cutting and closing up loopholes? Because there are Iowa farmers say they feel as though, yes, they have the best year in maybe history for them, but they feel like the winds are blowing in a different direction.
VILSACK: Well, I think there will be support for the biofuel industry. I think it may look different. There's no question that those supports are going to end at the end of the year. There is a good idea of ending them sooner, taking a portion of it and applying it on deficit reduction and take another portion of it and building out the infrastructure of the pumping systems that will make flexible fuel vehicles more conveniently able to get biofuel.
We want to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. The president has challenged us to do that. It's going to be good for the economy and it's going to get us away from an unstable source of oil in the Middle East.
ROMANS: All right. Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, traveling with the president on this Midwest jobs tour -- thank you so much, sir.
VILSACK: Thank you.
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