USDA Secretary Vilsack had a busy Monday in California, making six stops to hold a business leader’s roundtable, promote the American Jobs Act, encourage Americans to “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables,” meet with California agricultural commodity leaders and to drop in at the USDA state office in Davis for a visit with employees. He kicked off his day in California’s Central Valley by conducting a White House Business Council breakfast meeting with state and local business leaders. There, the Secretary heard directly from business leaders about their ideas to grow the economy.

As the beginning of his three-state Western U.S. tour this week, the Secretary detailed how the passage of the American Jobs Act would help California and put more money in the pockets of working Americans, noting that “In California, this act will provide a tax cut for over 71,000 businesses, support the jobs of 37,300 teachers and first responders and immediately provide over 51,500 construction jobs.”

Later that morning, the Secretary visited the Port of Sacramento, where he and regional civic leaders detailed how important jobs are to the Central Valley, hit hard by the economic downturn.  West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon noted that critical infrastructure improvements are needed for the Port to better compete with other West Coast shipping ports for agricultural export business.

The Jobs Act includes $50 billion in immediate investments to hire the workers to modernize critical infrastructure for America to compete in shipping, transportation and other transit services. U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui also spoke about the importance of the Jobs Bill to this region.

And from there, the Secretary highlighted the latest news about the USDA nutrition effort, the MyPlate Campaign.  Farm Fresh To You, an innovative produce company, was the host for this nutritional message. Farm Fresh To You is a 26,000-square foot “fresh-pack” produce distributor that delivers fresh packs to more than 40,000 customers each month from their West Sacramento warehouse.

MyPlate is the launch pad for USDA’s effort to increase nutritional awareness and better eating and weight control habits for consumers and especially children.  The goal of the campaign is to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”  During this stop, the Secretary also announced the MyPlate Fruits and Vegetables Video Challenge offering $9,000 in prize money for adults and children submitting videos featuring nutritional tips for eating at home and away from home.

There were two more stops in the Secretary’s long day. Next was a quick visit to the Richard Lyng Building in Davis, the home to several USDA agencies’ state offices. There Secretary Vilsack was greeted warmly by over 120 USDA employees. He shared brief remarks and praised the USDA workforce for their work on behalf of California’s farmers and ranchers.

The last stop was at the California Farm Bureau Federation headquarters nearby along the Sacramento River where an Agricultural Roundtable was convened for the Secretary by Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Val Dolcini. Over 35 leaders from the numerous and diverse California agricultural commodity groups shared their thoughts with the Secretary. Topics included further development of export markets, pest detection and control, the USDA budget, Farm Bill programs and how USDA can help the agricultural industry continue to lead an economic recovery for America.

It was a fitting tribute to California agriculture that Karen Ross introduced the Secretary to this group of the Golden State’s agriculture leaders. Formerly his Chief of Staff, Karen is now Secretary of the State’s Department of Food and Agriculture overseeing California’s $36 billion dollar agricultural industry.  After spending a very busy and highly productive day with the Secretary’s team, I was not surprised to hear Karen praise Secretary Vilsack as “A man who is highly dedicated to agriculture and the hardest working man I have had the privilege to work for.”