Agriculture secretary meets with valley business leaders

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stopped in Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with local business and community leaders at the East Las Vegas Community and Senior Center.

The forum was closed to media, but Vilsack, in town to promote the Obama administration's American Jobs Act, said the group had a wide-ranging discussion on topics including rural jobs, programs that help businesses export to other countries, continued assistance for food banks and how to help small businesses get credit for expansion.

The forum also covered creating biofuel from agricultural and landfill waste. Vilsack said the Agriculture Department and the Navy will partner to help build and buy power from four to five biofuel plants across the country, though he said sites haven't been chosen.

Vilsack talked in a postmeeting press conference about expanding the December 2010 payroll tax cut. The administration's proposal would give a Nevada household with a median income of $51,000 a tax cut of nearly $1,600. At least 50,000 Nevada businesses would receive a payroll tax cut under the plan.

Vilsack said the administration would pay for the tax cut with a surcharge on Americans earning more than $1 million a year and through budget cuts. Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at or 702-380-4512.