ALBIA, IOWA – Today, Focus on Rural America Co-Founder and former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge held an online press conference with former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and rural Wisconsin leaders Brad Pfaff and Dan Smith. The discussion marks a milestone for Focus on Rural America as the group takes successful tactics and research from the Iowa Caucuses and extends their rural advocacy work into Wisconsin through the general election. In the lead up to the caucuses, polling and focus group data from Focus on Rural America helped shape 15 meaningful rural policy plans from presidential candidates. In addition, the same candidates attended ethanol visits to see the jobs and impact that value-added agriculture provides rural communities.

“Today is an important day for Focus on Rural America as it marks our first event outside of Iowa. While we wish we could have traveled to Wisconsin in person, this is an important conversation, and I appreciate the visits we had before social distancing became the norm. Research Focus on Rural America conducted after the 2016 election and up through the caucuses helped us learn about rural voters, particularly those who voted for Obama twice and then for Trump. They saw each candidate as an opportunity to make a change in Washington. However, President Trump has continued to break his promises and make problems in rural America much worse.

Whether you live Wisconsin, Iowa, or any other rural community, we need rural policies from our leaders that will support and invest in these communities. I look forward to working with Dan Smith and Brad Pfaff and hope to continue building relationships in Wisconsin and beyond. Farmers cannot keep paying the price for Trump’s trade wars. Ethanol producers cannot shoulder handouts for oil and gas. We must elect leadership in November that will fight for rural America and reinvest in our communities.” – Patty Judge, Co-Founder of Focus on Rural America and former Lt. Governor of Iowa

“This is the most challenging time for family farmers and rural Americans in 40 years. Low commodity prices, uncertain trade markets, and unpredictable weather have led to tremendous financial and emotional stress. All of this came prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, because of the virus, farmers are getting even lower prices, and disruptions are hitting every aspect of the supply chain. All the while, grocery prices for some food staples have increased, and demand from food pantries is on the rise.

Rural investments are out of balance. Too many Wisconsin farmers and rural residents feel forgotten, unheard, and ignored. We don’t need to make new promises. What we need to do is keep the promises we’ve already made. It’s time to provide economic development and jobs to rural communities. It’s time to focus on priorities and follow through.” – Brad Pfaff, candidate for Wisconsin’s 32nd state Senate & former Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection 

“Many in rural America have worked for years to build a legacy for their family and to live in strong communities. Cooperatives have contributed greatly through providing goods and services to their members, some for over 100 years. Yet our farms, rural businesses, and communities continue to face challenges. This is because we have failed to efficiently invest in our rural economy. Access to broadband, affordable healthcare, social services, and quality education is still often limited. Our rural roads and bridges need to be improved. The housing stock in our small towns has depreciated ever since the 2008 recession. We must commit to change these fundamental parts of the rural economy.

Now, along comes Covid-19, which has caused market disruptions and closed businesses, exposing flaws in the supply chain. It has stressed the food processing and distribution system we rely on to feed a nation. It has redefined what is essential and made us aware of the risks involved in consolidation and specialization. Now is the time to take the reins and build the rural communities we want in the future. We need holistic programs that will build up our communities and diversify the rural economy. If we don’t, agriculture and our rural communities will continue to struggle.” – Daniel Smith, President & CEO of the Cooperative Network, former Administrator for the Division of Agriculture Development at the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture.

“We can incentivize an agriculture economy that diversifies the industry, increases market stability, and is nimble during a crisis. But cooperatives, farmers, ethanol producers, and others that make up our vast agriculture economy need a signal that promises will be kept and investments will be made.

The President has several opportunities to help these groups out today. He could be clear about his intention to live up to and follow through on the phase-one agreement with China instead of sending mixed signals to producers who are counting on these exports. He could also stop providing waivers for major oil corporations, which have kept billions of gallons of ethanol from the market. In addition, establishing the annual renewable fuel volume obligations would give the industry some certainty and stability.

Delaying these decisions and sending mixed signals simply stokes fear at a time of great uncertainty. Rural America needs consistent leadership by a president and action by an administration that understands how important trade and the RFS is for a hopeful economic future.” – Secretary Tom Vilsack

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