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Category: Rural Development

Our Commitment to Diversity and Equality at Rural Development

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right)

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.

Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve.  This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound.  By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.

As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

Continuing Lincoln’s Charge: USDA Serving the People

Rural Business-Cooperative Service Informational Webinar Series graphic

USDA RBS will host a series of informational webinars to share success stories on how customers and partner organizations have used RBS programs and resources to support businesses in rural and Tribal communities.

When President Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more than 150 years ago, he called it “the People’s Department” because USDA addresses the vital interests of the people. Now, more than ever, it is necessary for USDA to collaborate across federal agencies and into local community-building institutions to meet the unique challenges faced by the people of rural America.

USDA Rural Development (RD) plays a key role in supporting the diverse communities in rural America. The incredible resilience, hard work, and enduring cultural values of our rural population embody the beauty of America and are worth cherishing. Read more »

Local Foods in Schools Bring Rural Communities Together

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce from the garden.

From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.

To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities. Read more »

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 »

USDA Proudly Supports the LGBT Community in Oregon and Nationwide

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival along with representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service on August 13.

I recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in southwestern Oregon. We stood side-by-side with our counterparts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. When this festival began 25 years ago, the idea of a government agency participating was unthinkable. At that time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals had no assurance of equal treatment when requesting government services or financial assistance. In fact, it was not so long ago that federal employees suspected of being gay were fired from their jobs. This sad chapter in our history saw careers destroyed and lives irreparably damaged.

I am deeply proud of the tremendous progress we have made nationally and at home here in Oregon to correct those past mistakes. USDA has been among the first federal departments to participate in Pride festivals across Oregon, and we have been leading the way nationally in the arena of LGBT civil rights. We were one of the first federal departments to enact protections specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. USDA has instituted training for our employees, and we have been making a concerted effort to reach out to our LGBT customers, partners, and potential future employees. As I handed out information on the financial programs in Rural Development and the career opportunities available with USDA in a park festooned with rainbows, I experienced first-hand the incredible strides we have made in recent years toward a new era of civil rights. Read more »

Growing a Community – One Family at a Time in Huron, S.D.

Nyo Maung with his child

Nyo Maung with one of his six children enjoying some free time in the front yard of their new home.

There are stark differences between Huron, South Dakota, and the Thailand Refugee Camp where the Maung Family started their journey. There are cultural differences, language barriers, and vast contrasts between the way people live and work in these two pinpoints on opposite sides of the globe. The Maung family journeyed from Thailand and have been welcomed into the community of Huron, South Dakota. They are enjoying the American culture and are adjusting well to life in their new community.

It takes strong community partners working together to create thriving communities and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Even though the Maung family has limited knowledge of the English language, that barrier did not prevent them from pursuing the American dream of homeownership through USDA. They worked with a language interpreter to engage several partners that worked together to assist with the application process of becoming new homeowners. Read more »