Why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton

In the United States today, 46 million Americans call our rural communities home. In just a few short weeks, you will cast your ballots for President, choosing a candidate who will not only represent your interests, but understands the challenges you face. Throughout this long election, the candidate who has consistently shown herself best equipped to advocate for our rural communities is Hillary Clinton.

Hillary has spent her career fighting for rural areas, dating back to her work in Arkansas over 30 years ago to improve public schools across the state. She fought hard to raise standards, get schools more resources, and give teachers the raises they deserved-and she hasn’t stopped fighting for children and families since.

Over a year ago, I was proud to stand beside her at a community college in Des Moines, where she laid out her vision for rural America. This plan was grounded in a life’s work fighting for working families and the most vulnerable among us. Over the past few years, Hillary has listened to the needs and dreams of thousands of rural Americans, and then she did what she does best – she built a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy that invests in an economy that works for everyone – not just those at the top.

These policies reflect Hillary’s understanding of the hard work our rural communities do for the good of our country – providing our food, the fiber for our clothes, the energy for our homes and businesses, and nearly 40 percent of our military members. As President, Hillary will support our farmers and ranchers, encouraging the next generation by offering training and credit, strengthening the safety net to help them through unanticipated challenges, bolstering our regional food systems, and fostering a renewable energy future for the United States that utilizes wind, solar and biofuels.

Hillary also understands the sacrifices our rural communities make, bearing disproportionately the great cost of keeping our country safe. Of the 22 million veterans living across the country, nearly 25 percent call rural America home. Hillary believes they have earned care that is high quality, timely and accessible, regardless of where they live. As President, she will increase funding and expand programs that provide effective mental health treatment for veterans. She will invest in telemedicine, expanding the reach of care to all veterans, no matter how remote their community. And her plan to invest $275 billion in infrastructure will include a commitment to broadband, which will strengthen employment, education and healthcare for our vets and their families.

Above all else, she knows our men and women returning from service deserve the best quality of care, and she will work to ensure the VA’s mission remains centered on connecting them to the care and benefits they need.

In her travels across the country, in hundreds of intimate conversations with families and parents, Hillary has also gained a keen understanding of the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction facing 23 million Americans who struggle each day. I grew up with a mother who battled addiction, and I understand firsthand the toll this disease has taken on families. Hillary was the first and only candidate running for president to bring addiction out of the shadows and propose a serious, substantial plan to combat it, designing a $10 billion initiative to expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery. It will ensure our first responders have access to naloxone – a rescue drug that can prevent opioid overdoses from becoming fatal. And her plan ensures medical professionals prescribing controlled medications have the proper training to identify patients at risk of addiction.

On the issues that we all care about – the safety and security of our nation, our health, our jobs, and the future of our children – Hillary has proposed solution after solution to improve the lives of every American. Throughout this campaign, she has remained steady and focused and honorable. Over our decades-long friendship, I have found one of Hillary’s defining characteristics to be loyalty. And make no mistake – she is loyal to rural America because she knows rural communities make America strong and exceptional. That is why I encourage you to join me in voting for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.

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Tom Vilsack is the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He is the former governor of Iowa.