Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy to visit Ringgold Saturday, July 18

Mark your calendars and make plans to be in Ringgold on Saturday, July 18! We'll bring you more details re: time and location as they're available. This is a stellar opportunity to approach these Cabinet members, President Obama's right-hand men, and make your thoughts known on nuclear energy as well as on true alternative/renewable energy! Please don't let this chance pass you by! Everyone with a stake in the future of Southside needs to be out in force to talk to Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Chu!

By TIM DAVIS/Star-Tribune Editor
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 9:41 AM EDT

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will visit Pittsylvania County later this month as part of President Obama's "Rural Tour."

Vilsack and Chu are scheduled to be in Ringgold on Saturday, July 18, to talk about green jobs and a new energy economy with a focus on weatherization and carbon sequestration.

Details of the cabinet secretaries' visit are still being worked out. A time and location have not been announced.

Todd Haymore, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said he is aware of the secretaries' visit, and hopes to receive more details soon.

"We've been hearing about this potential visit for months and were even asked to submit some ideas for his staff's consideration," said Haymore, a county native.

"We obliged and forwarded a number of suggestions: a combination of traditional agricultural operations mixed with those that either had current or future bio-energy potential."

Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors chairman Coy Harville said the secretaries' visit is exciting news.

"This is a big plus, especially with the energy crunch we are in," said Harville.

"It speaks volumes about Virginia and speaks volumes about Pittsylvania County."

Freddie Wydner, the county's agricultural development director, agreed.

"I think the county should be proud that our advances in agriculture are being noticed," said Wydner.

Windy Acres in Gretna is producing "bio-crude" and Van Der Hyde Dairy in Chatham recently proposed installing the state's first anaerobic digester.

The county also is at the forefront in selling "carbon credits," the agriculture director said.

"All of these are a testament to the county and Virginia agriculture as a whole," said Wydner.

"Washington is taking note, and the farming community should feel pride knowing the Secretary of Agriculture wants to come here to talk about green energy and the green economy."

The president's office announced the "Rural Tour" last week, saying that over the course of the next few weeks and months, top administration officials, including cabinet secretaries, will "fan out across the nation to hold a series of discussions on how communities, states, and the federal government can work together to help strengthen rural America."

Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and Vilsack began the tour on July 1 by visiting Wattsburg, Pa., to discuss rural broadband.

"A healthy American economy depends on a prosperous rural America," Obama said. "Rural America is vast and diverse, and different communities face different challenges and opportunities.

"That's why we're going out to hear directly from the people of rural America about their needs and concerns and what my Administration can do to support them."

Administration officials participating in the tour will hear about challenges and opportunities facing small towns and rural communities.

They also will share some of the Obama administration's ideas about how to "nurture strong, robust, and vibrant rural communities."

They will report back to the president about the state of rural America and what the administration can do to strengthen it.

The events will serve as "listening sessions" on such issues as broad-based rural health, economic development, infrastructure, education, energy, natural resources, and agriculture.

Events will be held in Alaska, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Vilsack will hold listening sessions in additional states with local and state elected officials.

The rural tour is scheduled to end in September.

"The entire tour will provide an opportunity for the Obama administration to listen to diverse voices throughout rural America, and to highlight its broader vision for growth and prosperity in these regions of the country," a spokesman said.

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