Vilsack to fellow Democrats: Don't write off rural America

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has a warning for both the Trump Administration and members of his own party.

The Secretary of Agriculture is the only remaining member of President Obama's cabinet and one of the longest-serving Agriculture secretaries in history.

After eight years as the voice of rural America, Tom Vilsack will soon begin packing up his corner office overlooking the National Mall.

“We’ve been an innovative USDA," Vilsack said in an interview with Gray Television. "We've seen record income for farmers during the last eight years. We've seen record exports of agricultural products.”

But, before he leaves Washington, the outgoing secretary has a warning for the incoming administration.

“If we get on the wrong side of China, the wrong side of Mexico for reasons, we could see significant reductions in the amount of trade with those two countries which would obviously impact and effect farmers and ranchers," Vilsack explained.

The former Iowa Governor was at one point, a leading contender to be Hillary Clinton's running mate. Following the GOP's election night sweep, he's got a tough message for fellow Democrats: stop writing off the heartland.

“The Democratic Party has lost many legislative seats, they've lost many congressional seats, many senate races, many governorships," Vilsack said.

"All of that I think is an indication of a need for us to be more attune to the concerns of rural folks. We don't have to sacrifice our values by doing that. We just need to be more engaged with rural America than we have been," he said.

Secretary Vilsack, who turned 66 last week, says he's not sure what his future holds. He hasn't ruled out a future run for public office, but says one thing is certain. He's looking forward to returning to the Hawkeye State.

"Well we have three of our four Grandchildren who live in Iowa," Vilsack said. "One of our two sons, and obviously that's going to be home.”

Vilsack's portrait now hangs among his predecessors on the walls of the USDA's headquarters. Although his time in Washington is up, he says his fight for rural America isn't.

“I hope that we will have an opportunity to continue to promote and advocate on behalf of farmers and ranchers so that may take us back to Washington from time to time," Vilsack said.

But, for now he's happy to once again call Iowa home.

During his eight years in charge, Vilsack has worked on everything from fostering biotech innovation to combating opioid abuse. He also worked to implement rules through the Department of Agriculture to improve school lunch programs across the country.

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