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Category: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

From Recovery to Renewal: Rural America’s Partner for Prosperity

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack swearing into office the new Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) Lisa Mensah

Secretary Vilsack swore me in to be the Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD), and I'm so proud of the work we've accomplished.

Eight years ago this month, the US economy went into free fall. The crash of the housing market led to a chain of historic levels of bankruptcies and layoffs. The stock market would eventually lose 20% of its value; family incomes, investments, and home values were being crushed. Along with that, the hopes and dreams of many families.

One month after stepping into office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the greatest single investment in our nation’s economy since “The New Deal.” Read more »

Hog Wild Over Broadband

A group of hogs

A group of hogs. Photo courtesy: USDA, Lance Cheung, Photographer

Bringing broadband to rural areas is helping transform business operations, including family-owned hog farms.

Ralls County Electric Cooperative in Missouri received Recovery Act funding to provide fiber-to-the-premises in a very rural area of Missouri. One of the locations in the Ralls County Electric service territory is a local hog farm, Spring Lake Pork, just 20 miles west of the Mississippi River. This family-owned business was well experienced in hog management, but to stay in business, they needed to upgrade to a smarter and much more efficient operation with state-of-the-art equipment. They also needed robust broadband service to manage a wealth of data. Read more »

Fighting Crime with Fiber Optics

Patrolman Josh Kennedy at his desk

At the Oneida Police Department, Patrolman Josh Kennedy uses the online systems to access instant data on wanted fugitives and other criminals.

Near Stearns, Kentucky, a state trooper monitored traffic, watching for a car described in a just-issued bulletin. A car passed. No match.

Stearns is situated on the Upper Cumberland Plateau, McCreary County which is home to just 18,000 people.

Another car flashed by. Read more »

Gigabit Comes to Rural Western North Carolina

New routing switches installed to support Country Cablevision's expanded broadband service

New routing switches are installed to support Country Cablevision's expanded broadband service in rural North Carolina.

At the foot of Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River, sits the quiet town of Burnsville, North Carolina. People come and go from the textile factory, hikers visit to climb the mountain, and a colorful art scene adds flavor to the community. But in 2009 in the wake of the stock market crash, unemployment in the county rose to 11.9 percent. Burnsville’s problems were compounded by the lack of broadband Internet outside of the town-center, which limited its potential growth.

When USDA announced broadband funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Burnsville-based Country Cablevision saw an opportunity to expand and upgrade their existing Internet service in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. Read more »

What I Would Have Said Today to Vice President Biden about the Recovery Act

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland.  The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland. The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This blog is cross posted from Secretary Vilsack’s Medium page:

Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President’s effort to lead the Administration’s implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA: Read more »

2,700 Miles of Fiber

A man working on broadband systems

The Recovery Act helped bring access to broadband to 6 million rural Americans. Sometimes one connection at a time.

In 2010, Scott County, Tennessee languished at a twenty-one percent unemployment rate, not unusual for rural areas. By early 2015, that rate had halved. Through fiber optic power, Highland Telephone Cooperative’s vision, and funding from USDA Rural Development, these rural counties have become robust community models of technological enfranchisement.

Five years ago in the communities dotting the Upper Cumberland Plateau, lack of broadband access was a barrier to services that residents and businesses in urban areas take for granted. Geographical challenges such as the region’s remote and rocky terrain, combined with the lack of subscribers to provide business income, are common reasons rural areas do not enjoy affordable and reliable high-speed internet service. Read more »