Although Vilsack has pledged support to apprenticeships for young workers, environmental conservation, quality education, renewable energy, assistance for new farmers, affordable healthcare, enrichment programs for children and families, controlled federal spending and an infrastructure bank to fund large rural projects, the farm bill and small-town economic development were her main focus as she visited Templeton, Holstein, Crystal Lake, Pocahontas, Humboldt and Fort Dodge.
With Congress in summer recess until Sept. 10 and the current farm bill set to expire on Sept. 30, renewal is dire. While the bipartisan bill has passed the Senate, it is currently stalled in the House of Representatives.
"Not having a farm bill is detrimental to rural America," Vilsack told the Pilot-Tribune during a brief stop in Storm Lake on Wednesday morning.
Without the bill, renewable energy can become a question mark, and farmers will lack drought assistance for livestock and crops.
Vilsack said she believes her opponent, incumbent Republican Steve King, has been mostly talk and no action on the issue.
"Steve King said he has provided leadership on this, but he is on recess," she said. "Congress left without providing a farm bill. They should be held accountable, and should have stayed and gotten the farm bill (passed)."
Regarding a document that could force the Speaker of the House to take up the bill, if 218 representatives provided support, Vilsack said her opponent should be "sitting on the Speaker's doorstep, pounding on the door," in addition to signing the petition.
Like a farmer aptly put it during Vilsack's visit to a county fair: Congressional representatives need to act like Americans instead of bickering between parties, and should focus on collaboration and compromise to solve issues.
"That's how we live in small towns," she said. "People have to get along because we have to live together for the rest of our lives."
If elected, Vilsack said she wants to redefine what it means to be a congressperson by focusing on rural and local issues, such as economic development for the people she represents, instead of pursuing national topics that have little impact on the 4th District.
In addition to strong support for renewable fuels, wind energy and farming, Vilsack believes small bio-based companies employing 30-50 people could be the future of small towns. In lieu of petroleum, goods such as cosmetics, asphalt and rubber could be created from soybeans and corn.
"I want to make the case that we have exciting jobs here in Iowa," she said.