USDA Rural Development’s just released 2015 Progress Report highlights the many ways that the Agency’s investments in businesses and communities created jobs, provided economic opportunities and improved local infrastructure for millions of rural residents.
This report also presents the historic level of investment in rural communities since President Obama took office in 2009. Among the highlights, USDA:
- helped more than 1 million rural residents buy homes;
- funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care institutions;
- invested $11 billion in more than 103,000 rural businesses to start or expand their operations; financed 180,000 miles of new and improved electric transmission and distribution lines;
- supported 254 broadband projects (through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) that have brought high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents, 17,500 businesses and 1,900 community facilities.
Such investments bolster economic conditions and elevate the quality of life for rural Americans.
In 2015, USDA continued to build upon the accomplishments of the Obama Administration. It provided $30 billion through nearly 171,000 loans and grants to rural individuals, families, business owners, agricultural producers and communities.
Of course, the Agency does not operate in a vacuum. We work with private lenders, non-profit organizations and community-based groups. For example, USDA provided a loan to the Valley Telephone Cooperative to bring high-speed, Internet access to residents in and near Raymondville, Texas. This service enables residents to conduct on-line job searches, file their taxes and take advantage of web-based education programs at the local library.
Rural Development also helped nearly 150,000 families buy, refinance or repair their homes last year. Eleven thousand people lived in affordable apartments as a result of USDA programs to help build or provide subsidies for rental housing.
To strengthen community infrastructure and make rural areas more attractive and competitive places to live, USDA invested $1.8 billion in schools, hospitals, day care centers, first-responder vehicles and equipment to benefit more than 21 million rural residents. In Wickenburg, Ariz, for example, USDA provided a $16 million loan to help build a surgical center and health clinic. The project is expected to create 30 much-needed, health care-related jobs.
For those of us who call rural America home, we know that there’s much more to rural America than farms and ranches. From biobased products to manufacturing, the potential to thrive and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.
I invite you to read and share this report with your neighbors, friends and colleagues. It provides a good snapshot of the work we are doing to make rural areas stronger and more prosperous. You can track our ongoing efforts throughout 2016 through a year-long, progressive storytelling effort that will chronicle USDA’s work on behalf of those living, working and raising families in rural America.