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Category: Rural Development

#AgInnovates: Modern Solutions for a 21st Century Rural America

In the 151 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded, America’s oldest industry has evolved to meet the changing needs of our modern agricultural landscape. From growing overseas markets, building a 21st century rural infrastructure, and finding ways to address the challenges of climate change, USDA has worked beside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to streamline programs and spur innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

For USDA, that also means looking inward and changing the way we do business. We have done this by designing initiatives that collectively utilize the full scope of our mission, better focusing resources and staff across the Department to meet the needs of the communities we serve using modern tools, technology, and processes.

USDA’s recently expanded StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative illustrates this trend with a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance to combat persistent poverty in rural communities in 20 states.

Our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative aims to support the rapidly expanding local and regional food market with new products and services, as well as tailored cross-agency web resources and data that illustrate opportunities and promote local and regional food systems.

And finally, through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA responded to the uncertain fiscal environment by streamlining mission critical work and taking a close look at operations to find ways to cut costs and modernize processes to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars – with great results.

Over the next month we’ll share more about the ways that USDA has evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture in America. We’ll use hashtag #AgInnovates on social media to share these stories, but we want to hear from you too. In the video above, Secretary Vilsack asked you to lend your voice to our collective story of how YOUR community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. A new hospital? Technology enhanced planning, harvest, or conservation practices? A better transportation infrastructure? Education programs to meet the needs of today’s high tech ag sector?

Use #AgInnovates to let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you.

USDA Funded Apartment Complex Not Just “Renovated” but “Innovated”

A newly renovated senior housing facility in Arizona, funded in part by USDA Rural Development. (Photo used with permission)

A newly renovated senior housing facility in Arizona, funded in part by USDA Rural Development. (Photo used with permission)

Aesthetically the change is obvious and pleasing, but what hides inside the walls and under the ground is what is making the big difference at Kachina Apartments in Casa Grande, Arizona.

The 96-unit senior complex recently underwent a major rehabilitation that not only renovated the individual units but took dramatic steps to reduce water usage and the carbon footprint as well.

The rehabilitation project was a joint effort using low-income housing tax credits, State Housing Funds (HOME), and USDA Rural Development’s multi-family housing program. General contractors for the project were Precision General Commercial Contractors, Inc. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Fighting Rural Poverty in Appalachia and the Delta Region

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved—but not forgotten.

I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the wherewithal to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty, but it is imperative that these resources reach the areas where they are needed most.

That is why USDA has undertaken a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

Native Homeownership Coalition Continues its Work in South Dakota

South Dakota United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks (right) meets with Colleen Steele, Executive Director, Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial. USDA photo.

South Dakota United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks (right) meets with Colleen Steele, Executive Director, Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial. USDA photo.

“Being a homeowner is absolutely rewarding to my family and me. Owning my own home means stability, safety and accomplishment in our lives,” said Stephanie Richards-Apple.  She purchased her home through Mazaska Owecaso Otipi Financial.  Mazaska is a partner to USDA Rural Development in South Dakota and a member of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition (Coalition).   Richards-Apple worked with Mazaska to make the step from tenant to homeowner.  Her story highlights the importance of the work of the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition.

The Coalition is a partnership of Federal and State agencies, Housing Development Authorities and non-profit entities that share the common goal of improving Native homeownership in South Dakota.  South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks welcomed over 50 participants at a coalition-sponsored training session in Pierre, SD and stated “We strive to advocate and strengthen families and Native communities through homeownership; it isn’t often that the Native and non-native housing organizations get to learn from each other.” Read more »

Fighting the War on Poverty in Rural America

Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared the beginning of “an unconditional war on poverty in America,” challenging us to bring to bear all of our available tools and resources to address poverty and income inequality across America.

Born poor in the small town of Stonewall, Texas, President Johnson knew well that poverty is not just an urban problem—it spans both rural and urban areas across the United States. In fact, today over 85 percent of persistent–poverty counties are in rural areas, often places that are hard to reach, off the beaten track, or otherwise underserved.

President Johnson pushed us to think creatively and develop innovative efforts to better serve those living in poverty. Here at USDA, our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is investing in projects and strengthening community partnerships that help to address the unique challenges facing poverty-stricken rural areas. Read more »

First Ever Native American Food Hub Created in New Mexico

  USDA Rural Development New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner (center) presents a certificate of obligation to the Ten Southern Pueblo Council Governors and representatives during ceremonies to celebrate the successful application of funds creating the first ever Native American Food Hub in the nation. (USDA Photo)

USDA Rural Development New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner (center) presents a certificate of obligation to the Ten Southern Pueblo Council Governors and representatives during ceremonies to celebrate the successful application of funds creating the first ever Native American Food Hub in the nation. (USDA Photo)

The air was crisp and cold as the wind blew across Sandia Pueblo in mid-December.  But, the atmosphere among the Ten Southern Pueblo Governor’s Council was warm and jovial.

Why? Because, the Governors were celebrating the obligation of a USDA Rural Development funded study that creates the first ever Native American Food Hub in the nation. Read more »