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Category: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

USDA Funding Provides a Broadband Lift to Part of Rural Oklahoma

Oklahoma Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen  joins project representatives, elected officials, and community representatives to cut a ribbon officially declaring the completion of the 1st of 30 towers, comprising the new broadband network. USDA photo.

Oklahoma Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen joins project representatives, elected officials, and community representatives to cut a ribbon officially declaring the completion of the 1st of 30 towers, comprising the new broadband network. USDA photo.

Reinforcing USDA’s commitment to connecting rural America to the global economy, Oklahoma USDA Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen, cut the ribbon on a new high-speed internet network, projected to serve more than 4,000 rural Oklahoma residents, many of them Native American, and 1,400 businesses.

The Oklahoma-owned company, @Atlink, that secured the funding for the project, hosted the event at the site of the completion of their first of thirty towers.   The new, vast network will span from I-35 near Ardmore, to the northeast to Sapulpa, while covering sprawling areas between Pauls Valley and Muskogee.  @Atlink secured $8 million for this project through the USDA Broadband Initiatives Program.  The funding for their loan/grant combination was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »

Native American Heritage Month – A Time for USDA to Consult with Tribes and Learn from Them

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack (center left, second row) meets with members of the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack (center left, second row) meets with members of the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Late last month it was my privilege to join representatives from multiple USDA agencies at Wisconsin’s Mole Lake Indian Reservation to discuss ways to work together, across agency lines, to provide needed services to Tribes.  Thanks to funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other USDA programs, the Obama Administration has boosted federal support for Tribes, but now we are working to step up our effort even more, to work as one to support projects and initiatives that the Tribes have told us they support and need.  As we observe  Native American Heritage Month, it is important to note that this effort is consistent with Secretary Vilsack’s “One USDA” policy.  The intention is to have “one USDA speaking with one voice.”

Because we are such a large department, sometimes those seeking services just don’t know where to start.  At USDA we are moving to unify our brand identity and broaden our outreach.  We know that when a member of a Tribe approaches a USDA representative, they don’t want a process.  They want an answer, and we should be giving them answers from all of our agencies. That was the message I shared with my USDA colleagues at Mole Lake. Read more »

Thanks to USDA, Rural Arkansas Residents and Businesses Have Safer Water

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino recently visited the 500th water and wastewater project completed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “The Recovery Act has brought improved water and wastewater services to nearly 1.7 million rural residents,” said the Administrator.

Administrator Padalino made his remarks at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas.

Most people in the U.S. take for granted the fact that safe drinking water is readily available for use by simply turning on a tap, or pushing a button on a fountain.  However, many rural communities within the U.S. must deal with negative impacts associated with contaminated water sources at their homes and schools. Read more »

USDA Helps a Utah Town Earn a “Most Improved Water System” Award

Sigurd, Utah, located on the border of Fishlake National Forest, is a town of 435 and varying elevations. The highs and lows of Sigurd’s landscape make it a beautiful place to live, but with an outdated water system, the location caused problems for the residents. For years, the town coped with a small water tank, outdated pipes, and inconsistent water pressure. Most of the system had not been upgraded since its initial construction and each time the pipes broke, a majority of the town was cut off from the water supply until maintenance crews could fix the problem. Read more »

Entrepreneurship Helps to Engage the Youth of Nebraska through the Building of a Straw Bale Business Incubator/Grocery Store

Students of the Cody-Kilgore schools and area residents are working to complete a straw-bale building, an environmentally-friendly design that uses straw as insulation. Start-up funding was provided through USDA Rural Development and matched with cash, material and sweat equity contributions. Photos courtesy of the Village of Cody.

Students of the Cody-Kilgore schools and area residents are working to complete a straw-bale building, an environmentally-friendly design that uses straw as insulation. Start-up funding was provided through USDA Rural Development and matched with cash, material and sweat equity contributions. Photos courtesy of the Village of Cody.

In Nebraska, keeping small rural communities alive and vital is a hard road.  Part of the puzzle is keeping the rural youth local and involved.  Who would think straw built construction could create the buy in needed to interest the youth?

The Village of Cody, home to 150 residents, is mostly farmers and ranchers.  Residents know that entrepreneurship is important in creating more businesses and gain jobs but how do you inspire the youth towards this concept? Read more »

Recovery Act and NRCS Help Tennessee Town Fight Erosion

Recovery Act funding saved this bridge, the only direct thoroughfare to the town of Ripley, Tenn.

Recovery Act funding saved this bridge, the only direct thoroughfare to the town of Ripley, Tenn.

Steve Koonce, a Civil Engineering Technician with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), remembers swimming in Tennessee’s Cane Creek as a youngster, when he and friends would jump from a bridge into the water 15 feet below. But today, because of a catastrophic erosion problem, that activity would be a lot more dangerous. Read more »