The audacity was admirable.

The question Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s asked attendees to the Washington Public Policy Conference was this:

“What if you took 5% of your marketing budget and set it aside (to fund public service announcements)?”`
    
Vilsack delivered a skillful address on Thursday morning, leading the audience toward more commitment to expand fruit and vegetable demand while at the same time pronouncing Administration views on local food, rural development through support of small farms and expanding the healthy diet choices for those who live in “food deserts.”

He was preaching to the choir and cheer leading the pep club when the industry is perhaps used to top USDA officials who are more measured in their support of any particular food group.

Vilsack spoke effortlessly, with no obvious reliance on speaker notes and made some of these points:

“There are too many places where people can’t find fruits and vegetables.”

“We have to promote the whole notion of getting (kids) better attached to where their food comes from.

    For commercial produce shippers, Vilsack’s take on the newly christened “Know your farmer, know your food” USDA initiative was of interest. Some wonder if the USDA has promoted local and organic food to the exclusion of the work that the distant supplier accomplishes.

Vilsack indicated that the USDA has only just begun the effort to link local producers with local consumers, and he said the agency will encourage more local purchases by institutions like schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions.
    
"The hope is that we create new opportunities for local producers.”
    
Revitalization of rural America is part of the reason behind the initiative, he said. “If you create local markets, then you can continue to see increase in the number of fruit and vegetable producers,” he said.

TK: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack truly believes that one of his primary purposes as the head of USDA is to promote fruits and vegetables. It makes sense that while he is at it, he wants the industry along for the ride. Even if parting with 5% of marketing budgets for “public service announcements” (generic promotion) is a non-starter for many in the industry, you have to admire the audacity of the suggestion.