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Platform Americas: Remembering 'Forgotten' Rural America With Tom Vilsack

U.S Department of Agriculture
Former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack visiting the Berlin Wall in 2016.

Tom Vilsack leads water and food initiatives at Colorado State University. He's also the former agriculture secretary, former governor of Iowa, and a champion of rural America. His new organization, New Democracy, intends to create a bigger, more inclusive Democratic party - one he says will appeal to rural Americans who feel neglected by the current Democratic message.

Interview Highlights

On New Democracy, a new group intended to push a more centrist Democratic message:

"[New Democracy] is simply an effort ... to say we have a ...Democratic message that is broad enough and progressive enough to appeal to a lot of people in all parts of America, not just those who are specifically and very aggressively and passionately progressive."

On the downside of innovation:

"I think that that both parties have failed to provide leadership in terms of a transition economy. We are all about innovation in the United States. We love it when we talk about driverless cars. When I hear driverless cars I think about cab drivers I think about truck drivers I think about U.P.S. drivers and what's going to happen to them."  

On the rural view of immigration:

"I don't think it's necessarily the case that rural America as it is a completely different view on immigration that folks in the cities and suburbs have, because I will tell you I've talked to a lot of farmers who understand and appreciate very much their cultural workforce and they know that 70 75 percent workforces are immigrants people from other countries and they know that probably a lot of them are not here properly documented."  

On his role at CSU:

"It's also going to be a opportunity for us to discuss the future of Colorado. One of the key issues facing Colorado is water. We've had a luxury for many, many years of being able to have expanding cities and also to be able to maintain the agricultural heritage in an economy that is important to Colorado. Well, over the course of the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years, we're going to be faced with a very difficult choice. Do we figure out more creative ways to reuse -- to to to be more efficient with the water that we have -- so that we can continue to have both growing cities and an agricultural economy? Or are we going to have to choose because we are not efficient?

"Colorado State University believes that we -- at Colorado State, in Colorado and in the western part of the United States -- are up to the challenge of figuring out how to create innovative strategies for cities, for agriculture, to be more efficient more effective and more useful [to] allow us to continue to have expanding cities in an agricultural economy."

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