Cannon Falls, Minn. — Rural Minnesota may be a long way from Washington D.C., but its contributions are being recognized in the nation’s capitol.

When U.S. President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting in Cannon Falls in August, kicking off a Midwest tour, the central message was strengthening rural America’s economic health.

AURI’s Teresa Spaeth, executive director, and Kate Paris, planning and project director, were invited as guests of U.S. Representative Tim Walz, who represents Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

The president emphasized that his vision for rural economic development includes renewable energy and other ag-based ventures. “If you help the farm economy in rural communities, you help the economy of the entire state,” Obama told the crowd of 500. “And if you help entire states, then that’s good for the country as a whole.”

“It is heartening to hear the president recognize farming and innovative agriculture for their contributions to creating wealth in rural America,” Spaeth said. “That certainly supports the message AURI has been carrying for years.”

The crowd also heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who chairs a newly-formed White House Rural Council. The Council will coordinate programs across government to encourage public-private partnerships to promote economic development in rural communities nationwide.

The Rural Council will also be responsible for providing recommendations for investment in rural areas. It will engage with a variety of rural stakeholders, including agricultural organizations, small businesses, and state, local and tribal governments.