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Acting Under Secretary Discusses Food Hubs, Inspects USDA-Funded Life-Saving Helicopters, Medical Facilities, in New York

We recently hosted Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien for a series of site visits and a roundtable with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Western New York state focusing on the possibilities, advantages and challenges of expanding the presence of food hubs throughout the state. I was able to join the Under Secretary as we spoke with rural stakeholders, business owners and farmers from East Aurora, N.Y.

We heard from rural stakeholders, business owners and farmers who knew best what the opportunities and challenges were as we and Senator Gillibrand’s staff shared what resources were available. After all, increasing the number of food hubs will increase market expansion for our farmers goods, providing access to affordable and healthy foods will greatly contribute to the health and well-being of the state and its citizens.

We then traveled to Batavia, N.Y. and visited with a couple of project recipients: Mercy Flight West and United Memorial Medical Center. Mercy Flight received a combination of loans and loan guarantees totaling more than $3 million dollars to purchase two state of the art emergency helicopters that are designed to have increased cabin capacity for specialized crew and equipment as well as increased range and speed – seeing one of these airframes in person was impressive, but meeting the pilots and crews and hearing what they had already done since acquiring the choppers was astounding.

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (right) N.Y. State Director Stanley Lee Telega and USDA Area Specialist Dawn Kauras visit the new state-of-the-art Mercy Flight Helicopter. Mercy Flight offers emergency services to rural residents throughout Western New York. In 2011, Rural Development provided the organization with funding for the new equipment. USDA photo.

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (right) N.Y. State Director Stanley Lee Telega and USDA Area Specialist Dawn Kauras visit the new state-of-the-art Mercy Flight Helicopter. Mercy Flight offers emergency services to rural residents throughout Western New York. In 2011, Rural Development provided the organization with funding for the new equipment. USDA photo.

United Memorial Medical Center, also in Batavia, received program funding totaling more than $12 million and included a 44,000 square foot addition. Renovations included 5 operating rooms, a pre/post-operative area and 19 recovery areas. A new lobby, new handicap accessible entrance and space for the medical center’s imaging and surgical equipment was also added.

I speak for everyone at Rural Development N.Y. when I say that we take great pride in working to improve the quality of life and economic conditions in rural communities – if you’re interested and want to learn more about USDA Rural Development programs visit: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/NYHome.html

Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (center, white shirt), N.Y. State Director Stanley Lee Telega (right) and USDA Area Specialist Dawn Kauras visit the new state-of-the-art Mercy Flight Helicopter. Mercy Flight offers emergency services to rural residents throughout Western New York. USDA provided funding support. USDA photo.

Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (center, white shirt), N.Y. State Director Stanley Lee Telega (right) and USDA Area Specialist Dawn Kauras visit the new state-of-the-art Mercy Flight Helicopter. Mercy Flight offers emergency services to rural residents throughout Western New York. USDA provided funding support. USDA photo.

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