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Category: Rural Development

A Home for the Backbone of California Agriculture

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoying one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoy one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”. The on-site program also offers healthy snacks, help with homework and access to computers.

California and agriculture go hand in hand; it’s hard to talk about one without mentioning the other. Similarly, we can’t talk about our farmers and ranchers and not mention the farm workers – the backbone of California’s agriculture industry.

Eduardo Jaramillo has spent much of his life working in the vineyards in Calistoga, part of California’s world-renowned Napa Valley wine region. “I love working with the earth, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else,” he explained. To afford housing, he and his wife shared a house with their adult son. But when an electrical malfunction caused a fire – destroying the house – they were devastated. They lost everything. With help from their church they were able to find new housing, but the high rent coupled with the added burden of replacing their furniture and other basic necessities proved too much. They faced the real possibility of being forced to leave Calistoga, and the vineyards Eduardo had spent his life cultivating. Read more »

Designated Promise Zones Keep Rural America Strong

A child smiles after poking his face out in a hole on the Local Food Tastes Better sign

Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone invests in local foods.

As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin.  Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter.  They are some of our country’s finest.

But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.

That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education.  That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries. Read more »

Introducing USDA Results, a Year-Long Storytelling Effort of the Obama Administration’s Work on Behalf of Those Living, Working and Raising Families in Rural America

Today, USDA is launching USDA Results, a progressive, year-long, multimedia storytelling effort showcasing the Administration’s work on behalf of those living, working and raising families in rural America. Each month, USDA will release a new chapter of the story at medium.com/usda-results. We encourage you to check out January’s chapter, Celebrating America’s Farmers and Ranchers: Supporting the Producers Who Ensure a Safe, Affordable, Nutritious American Food Supply, and follow along throughout 2016.

When I began my service as Secretary of Agriculture in 2009, I took the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nickname of the ‘People’s Department’—first coined by President Abraham Lincoln—to heart.

President Lincoln knew the importance of agriculture to national prosperity—particularly at a time when about half of all Americans lived on the farm. He understood the critical responsibility of USDA and government to serve and support American agriculture and the rural communities who have, since the founding of our country, helped to drive innovation and economic growth on a national scale.   Read more »

High Five Series: Rural America is Home for the Holidays

One of the fifty families in New Hampshire

One of the fifty families in New Hampshire whose affordable rental home was preserved for 30 more Holiday seasons to come.

Oh, there’s nooooo place like hooooome for the holidays… Every time I hear that song I get an extra spring in my step knowing that I work for an organization that helped more than 160,000 families afford to buy, rent, or repair their homes this year. That’s 160,000 families in rural America that are home for the Holidays.

This year, 50 New Hampshire families living in one of our rental housing facilities were on the verge of losing their homes, but because of local community action groups, and my amazing team of affordable rural housing professionals, USDA Rural Development is able to continue to provide rental assistance to 50 Granite State families for the next 30 years.  Last month, we were able to close a deal that will keep these 50 families, and an additional 50 elderly and disabled tenants in a neighboring affordable housing community in their homes affordably for the next 30 years. Read more »

High Five for Partnerships with Native Americans and Alaska Natives

2015 was another banner year for innovative Federal / Tribal partnerships, government-to-government relations with Federally Recognized Tribes and investments that continue to improve the quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Here are five examples from this past year of ways USDA and this Administration have built on their deep commitment to improving our working relationships with Tribes and helping them meet unique challenges facing tribal communities head-on. Read more »

A High Five for Transformed Communities

Lower Kalskag residents Marcus Lake and his mother, Carrie

Lower Kalskag residents Marcus Lake and his mother, Carrie, will have fresh running water and indoor plumbing for the first time once the project is complete in the Alaskan village. USDA photo by James Pendleton

If there’s a pinnacle of pride I have in our USDA Rural Development staff, it’s their ability to work with rural communities and our public and private partners to be a positive force for transformation in cities and towns across the country. For my #HighFive to our staff at Headquarters and in field offices across the nation and territories, I want to highlight five projects that have transformed rural communities.

In west Tennessee, contaminated groundwater and the lack of a public water treatment facility were causing health concerns and uncertainty for the residents of Springville and Sandy Beach, and they had few affordable options for addressing these serious issues. With investment from USDA Rural Development and other federal and state partners, the communities now share nearly 30 miles of water distribution lines and a new tank that provide clean, safe, and reliable water to the area. Read more »