Millions of Rural Americans See Improvement in Quality of Life, Thousands of Jobs Created through USDA Support
The Obama Administration made historic investments in rural America in FY 2010, paving the way for increased economic growth and productivity over the long term. More than 33,700 rural jobs were created and saved as a result of assistance Rural Development provided to more than 500 rural businesses; more than 150,000 rural residents became homeowners in FY 2010, and 4.67 billion kilowatt hours of energy were saved through Rural Development energy programs. As a matter of fact, USDA investments in renewable energy led to the production of nearly 1 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in FY 2010. These and other details are included in a report I issued today.
The report notes that although agriculture remains a critical economic driver in rural America and in our Nation as a whole, more than 95 percent of rural income today is earned off the farm, and jobs in most rural counties are derived from industries other than agriculture. Building a thriving companion economy for agriculture requires the continued growth of off-farm job opportunities in rural America. That is why USDA Rural Development programs focus on diversification as an economic strategy for rural revitalization.
Ensuring that rural residents have easy and affordable access to high-speed broadband is a central component of this strategy. By the close of FY 2010, Rural Development made 320 loan and grant awards that will result in broadband access for nearly 7 million rural residents, 364,000 businesses, and 32,000 anchor institutions – such as schools, libraries and hospitals. These projects will create more than 25,000 immediate and direct jobs and are expected to contribute to long-term economic development opportunities in each rural community where a broadband project is launched.
During the past year, Rural Development has worked at the direction of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to build a framework of a new rural economy, built on a set of pillars which combine the successful strategies of today and the compelling opportunities of tomorrow. For example, more than one-third of the funds Rural Development invested in business in FY 2010 were for manufacturing projects, which I know can continue to be a leading segment of the rural economy.
Our activities at USDA Rural Development reflect President Obama’s vision that America needs to get serious about winning the future and needs. That means investing in the sort of innovation that brought us the internet. It means ensuring our children get the best education possible so they can out-compete kids across the globe. It means building an infrastructure to support our economy in the 21st century. It means we need to out-build, out-innovate and out-educate the competition. This is our commitment to you.
I am extremely proud of these important investments Rural Development has made and will continue to make. They will help create good-paying jobs in our rural communities, work against the threat of global climate change, and help our Nation increase the production of domestic energy.