On Wednesday, agricultural leaders, farmers and conservation groups met with USDA officials to discuss conservation programs and to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The meeting is part of a series of Rural Roundtables that are being held across the country this summer with senior Obama administration officials on behalf of the White House Rural Council.

"It was a pleasure hearing directly from Tennessee farmers and producers and getting their input into what they value in our programs," said Harris Sherman, Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "USDA, together with the rest of the Obama administration, will work with the Rural Council to support families and businesses in rural Tennessee so that their success will pay dividends for all Americans."

The meetings give an opportunity for government leaders to hear directly from business leaders around the country about their ideas on how to grow the economy. This exchange also is intended to educate business and community leaders about USDA programs and other the resources within the federal government to help them compete and expand.

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and a series of working groups have been held in recent weeks to advance the council's objectives. Since his inauguration, the Obama's administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. Goals include modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, providing affordable health care, promoting innovation and expanding the production of renewable energy. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining, and thriving economically.

As chair of the Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is working to coordinate USDA programs across the government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions and create jobs in rural communities. The White House Rural Roundtables are an opportunity for government leaders to hear directly from rural residents from around the country about their ideas on how to grow the economy. This exchange is also intended to educate participants about USDA programs and other the resources within the federal government. USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices to improve the quality of life in rural America.