This week, Americans across our nation will gather around Thanksgiving tables with family and friends. Every year at this time, I am reminded how blessed we are to have a strong, vibrant rural America which provides so much for each of us, every day.
Rural America provides our families with a safe, secure, affordable food supply, unrivaled outdoor recreational opportunities, healthy soil and clean water. Our nation’s leading efforts in renewable fuel and energy are based in rural America, as are millions of American jobs.
Our farmers, ranchers and growers are the most productive on earth. Their work allows us to feed people at home and around the world. It means that American families pay less for their food than the people of any other developed nation. It strengthens our economy, with agriculture supporting one in 12 U.S. jobs.
Their farm fields hold the promise of new technology – from incredible new green building materials, to advanced biobased products. Their homegrown energy is bringing down the price of gas today, and setting the stage for the next generation of advanced biofuels.
These accomplishments are the result of hard work by millions of Americans, and it isn’t always easy. This year has been marked by a number of disasters stretching from our smallest towns to our biggest cities. America still faces an historic drought, and the recovery continues from Hurricane Sandy. At USDA, we are committed to doing all we can in support of those who have been affected by disaster.
Throughout the holiday season, my family and I will also remember those who struggle to put food on their plate. We’ll give thanks that so many ordinary Americans stand up to fight hunger in their own communities.
As always, we will honor those who serve in our nation’s armed forces and we will remember that a high proportion of these brave men and women come from rural America. Many are overseas today, away from their own families, so that all of us can remain safe and free.
We truly do have much to be thankful for, and I am particularly grateful for those who live, work and raise their families in rural America. I am glad that USDA can support their efforts. This week, I wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy Thanksgiving. I invite you to join me in giving thanks for the great nation we call home.
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Tom Vilsack is secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.