The biobased products industry contributed $393 billion and 4.2 million jobs to the U.S. economy in 2014, according to report by the Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the industry as a key contributor to the rural economy at a National Press Club event, where he also spoke broadly about rural America and the opioid epidemic. The report is an “indication that there is positive momentum in a rural economy,” Vilsack said. “There is a plan, a strategy, investments, and opportunity.”
Between 2013 and 2014, the industry was responsible for an additional 220,000 jobs and $24 billion, according to the report.
In addition to supporting biofuels, Vilsack said the federal government can help rural areas by investing in the community college system, improving high-speed broadband connection
“It’s incumbent on us to make sure that we preserve opportunities and choice for young people who grew up in these small towns and farms to be able to live there if they choose, or for those who have left to come back,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack, who was seen as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, was cagey when asked about his political future, whether it includes serving as Clinton’s chief of staff or running for office in his home state of Iowa, where he previously served as governor. Vilsack did say he enjoyed executive positions more than when he served in the Iowa state Senate.
“Here’s what I know about myself. I’m an executive. I like to make decisions. I like to implement decisions,” Vilsack said.