Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make his first official visit to Puerto Rico, where he will highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ongoing commitment to addressing food security and rural opportunities in the Commonwealth.
While in Puerto Rico, Vilsack will meet with various officials from the Commonwealth, visit a National Forest research station, engage with local farmers and ranchers, convene a group of financial leaders focused on finding opportunities for rural investment and make several important announcements to address food security and rural development.
Vilsack is the latest senior Obama Administration official to travel to Puerto Rico, following visits earlier this year from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro and Education Secretary John King to urge action by Congress to provide Puerto Rico with the tools it needs to address its crisis, restructure its debt, support reform and enable growth.
While in Puerto Rico, Vilsack will meet with staff from seven USDA agencies working in the Commonwealth: the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, Farm Service Agency; Food & Nutrition Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development. Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $20 billion in Puerto Rico across various programs, including nutrition, infrastructure, housing, farming and ranching, conservation and forestry and research.
On Wednesday, Vilsack will meet with Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, Senate majority leader Eduardo Bhatia and Speaker of the House Jaime R. Perelló Borrás. Later that day, he will tour the U.S. Forest Service Sabana Field Research Station and El Yunque National Forest to highlight USDA's key research initiatives in the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub. USDA has established a network of seven regional Climate Hubs and three Sub Hubs to support applied research and provide information to farmers, ranchers, advisors and managers to inform climate-related decision-making and region-specific adaptation strategies.
On Thursday, Vilsack will highlight Puerto Rico's growth potential and announce a series of additional federal investments in Puerto Rico's future. The day will begin with a meeting of farmers, ranchers, producers and agriculture-related businesspeople to gauge the needs and opportunities of Puerto Rico's agricultural sector. Vilsack will then convene a meeting with a dozen investors, financial leaders, economists and entrepreneurs to discuss rural economic opportunity and the potential to leverage public and private resources in a more integrated and coordinated way in the Commonwealth to create a brighter future for its residents.