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Category: Rural Development

‘Five Faces of the Farm Bill’ Series and New Multimedia Channel Bring the Farm Bill to Life

Today, we begin a month-long effort to highlight the one-year anniversary of the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, by launching a new multimedia channel packed with compelling stories, stunning photography and even a personal note from Secretary Vilsack to USDA’s friends, partners and staff; “It is because of you that this has been called ‘the most successful Farm Bill implementation.’”

Signed into law on Feb. 7, 2014 by President Obama, the Farm Bill has allowed USDA to continue record accomplishments on behalf of the American people, while providing new opportunities and creating jobs across rural America. Read more »

Investing in the Future of Maine’s Great Outdoors with Renewable Energy

Standing in front of the solar array at Mt. Abram, Maine’s first solar-powered ski area are Solar Market Owner Naoto Inoue; Mt. Abram Owner Matthew Hancock; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Senator Angus King's representative, Ben Tucker; and Senator Susan Collins' representative, Carlene Tremblay.

Standing in front of the solar array at Mt. Abram, Maine’s first solar-powered ski area are Solar Market Owner Naoto Inoue; Mt. Abram Owner Matthew Hancock; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Senator Angus King's representative, Ben Tucker; and Senator Susan Collins' representative, Carlene Tremblay.

Recently I had the privilege of joining Matthew Hancock and his team at Mt. Abram, a unique, sustainable ski area located in the mountains of Western Maine. An immense 803 panel solar photovoltaic system greeted gatherers as they drove in, the result of a Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant awarded by Maine USDA Rural Development. The system in Greenwood is the second largest solar project in the country for a ski area, the first ever in Maine, and as a sign next to the solar panels boasts, it is also the “World’s Largest Snow Making Site.”

This important project was made possible in part by a USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program Grant, which provided $235,000 of the $940,000 total project cost. Matt’s business will benefit significantly, with 70 percent of operations at the ski area operating on solar generated power, while skiers and nature enthusiasts will appreciate its green, carbon emission-reducing features, making Mt. Abram truly “Maine’s Sustainable Mountain Playground.” In addition to its solar features, Mt. Abram heats the lodge with wood pellets and was the second ski area in North America to install electric vehicle chargers. Read more »

2014 in Review: New Farm Bill Allows Kansas Family to Purchase Home

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

2014 will soon be in our collective rear view mirrors, and USDA Rural Development has had an incredibly productive year. This week we are looking back on stories from the year that illustrate the impact our programs have on rural communities. Here’s a story out of our Kansas State Office from June.

Megan Estrada and her three children are excited to spend time on their new home’s porch – a home they just moved into this summer. Prior to purchasing their own home, Estrada and her children had spent the last nine years in an apartment in Dodge City, Kansas. Read more »

World Accessibility in Rural America

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.

In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »

A New Home for the Holidays in Michigan

 Kelseigh Weber gets a housewarming gift from Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and USDA Rural Development Specialist Laura Leplow as Michigan State Director James Turner and Rebecca Weber look on.

Kelseigh Weber gets a housewarming gift from Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and USDA Rural Development Specialist Laura Leplow as Michigan State Director James Turner and Rebecca Weber look on.

 Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Michigan State Director James Turner, and Plainwell, Michigan community members at the new City Hall sculpture.

Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Michigan State Director James Turner, and Plainwell, Michigan community members at the new City Hall sculpture.

During this holiday week, I couldn’t help but think of my recent visit with Ms. Rebecca Weber of St. Johns, Michigan – about twenty minutes north of our state capital of Lansing. USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and I were able to meet Ms. Weber and hear her inspiring story.

USDA Rural Development in Michigan has forged a valuable partnership with Habitat for Humanity, where USDA provides the necessary financing for these families to build their homes. Rebecca Weber is one of the shining examples of success coming from that partnership. Rebecca is a hard-working single mother who built her home this year with the help of Habitat for Humanity and USDA Rural Development. Rebecca was so dedicated to getting this home build, that when heavy rains this summer forced a six-month delay due to standing water, she enlister her mother and together they bailed out the property with five gallon buckets to get things back on schedule. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: 2014, a Year of Action, Partnership and Innovation at USDA

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve. Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments. Read more »