USDA chief: Rural America becoming less relevant

By By MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON (AP) — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has some harsh words for rural America: You're becoming "less and less relevant."

A month that Democrats won the election even as rural parts of the country voted overwhelmingly Republican.

Now Vilsack — a former Democratic governor of Iowa — has told farm belt leaders that he's frustrated with their internal squabbles and says they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.

In a speech this past week in Washington, he said rural America's biggest assets — the food supply, recreational areas and energy, for example — can be overlooked by people elsewhere as the U.S. population shifts more to cities, their suburbs and exurbs.

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