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Category: Rural Development

Rural Electrification Celebrates 80 Years of Rural Productivity

REA 80th Anniversary - North Plains Electric Cooperative. The first home furnished with cooperative power in the North Plains EC service area was that of George Robbins (below) located in the southwest part of Lipscomb County, Texas. W.M. Good (above), first president of the Boards of Directors at North Plains Electric Cooperative threw the switch to energize the first 80 miles of line on February 5, 1946. Power was purchased from the City of Canadian, Texas. A very small 300 KVA substation located in Canadian served the first few miles of line for the cooperative members.

North Plains Electric Cooperative, located in Perryton, Texas, and serving the Northeast corner of the Texas panhandle, the co-op has “been lighting the Texas Plains since 1944.”

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a temporary agency tasked with deciding how to fund rural electric systems. The following year, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, giving statutory power to the new agency.

It didn’t take them long to get to work. In 1937, the REA noted the most spectacular increase of rural electrification in the history of the United States had been achieved. Thanks to this national commitment, more than 1.2 million farms had electric service and the gap between urban and rural standards of living was closing. Read more »

$1 Billion Invested in Rural Health Care Across 13 States

In late 2011, the President announced a White House Rural Council initiative lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in rural health and link rural doctors and hospitals to financing for health IT. The initiative was designed to address the need for financing to support the adoption of health IT systems in rural communities.  Financing has been cited as one of the top challenges for rural doctors and hospitals serving remote and poor communities.

Between 2012 and 2014, the HHS and USDA led initiative generated approximately $1 Billion in rural health care financing across 13 states. These investments, funded by USDA, included grants and loans to help rural clinics and hospitals transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), encourage exchange of health information with health care providers and patients, and offer telehealth services. Read more »

Celebrating Earth Day and Protecting the Environment in Rural America

Kids playing with hose

Nothing is a basic as clean pure water for this generation and generations to come.

It’s a fact most of us learned in grammar school.  More than seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water.  On this 45th Earth Day, I can’t help but be proud to recognize the work that USDA Rural Development is doing to improve water quality and availability in Rural America.  Today, USDA is announcing over $112 million in loans and grants to rural communities across the country for better water and wastewater systems.

To recognize Earth Day, today I visited the rural community of Henderson, Maryland. The town’s water system recently failed completely, leaving the 146 residents of Henderson without water. However, Rural Development stepped in to help. USDA is providing the town with a $175,000 Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to make critically needed repairs to the system. Read more »

Serving Rural America’s Kids and Families

Every parent’s wish is for their children to thrive and prosper. Yet, too many of our nation’s families still live in poverty, despite doing their best to make ends meet. Rural families and children have additional challenges as schools, healthcare services, healthy food choices, jobs, and other opportunities are often miles away in a different town, county or even state. The Obama Administration is committed to these families, and believes that all children — no matter where they live —  should have an opportunity to succeed.

Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the National 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play and grow.

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to these young leaders and tell you about the projects that encouraged President Obama to invite them to the White House to say “thank you”.  Investing in kids like these is an investment in America’s future. Read more »

Keeping our Promise in Kentucky

USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah meets with Keith Gabbard, General Manager of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Ky., on March 3, 2015. Gabbard described the company’s successful “fiber-to-the-premise” broadband project, which was funded in part with loan and grant funds from USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. As a result of the project, PRTC was awarded with a Smart Rural Community designation from the National Telephone Cooperative Association.

USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah meets with Keith Gabbard, General Manager of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Ky., on March 3, 2015. Gabbard described the company’s successful “fiber-to-the-premise” broadband project, which was funded in part with loan and grant funds from USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. As a result of the project, PRTC was awarded with a Smart Rural Community designation from the National Telephone Cooperative Association.

During my trip to Kentucky, I was truly gratified to see Rural Development’s footprint throughout small towns spread across all regions of the Commonwealth. From water lines, broadband networks, wastewater treatment plants, single and multi-family housing, electric lines, senior centers, hospitals and small businesses, Rural Development helps build communities from the ground up working in partnership with local groups.

Last year, 73 Kentucky counties enduring some of the state’s toughest economic challenges were designated to receive targeted USDA support through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Soon thereafter, President Obama designated a region of eight counties in the state’s southeast corner as one of the country’s first five Promise Zones.  Under these designations, USDA works with local partners to leverage federal resources to address the area’s chronic poverty challenges and improve the overall quality of life in the region. Read more »

Rural Housing: Making a Home for Summer Food Program

Children from USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing community, Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA receive free summer meals from their local FNS Summer Food Service Program.

Children from USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing community, Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA receive free summer meals from their local FNS Summer Food Service Program.

In 2014, 21.6 million American children depended on free or reduced-price school lunches. When school lets out for the summer, many of these children do not get enough to eat and become at risk of all the health issues associated with hunger.  Poverty and the lack of food for children are persistent problems in rural America.

As Administrator of USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS), I know our agency helps hungry children. Working with the owners and managers of USDA-financed affordable rental housing last summer, I learned we can do even more. Together, we partnered with our sister agency – the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) – to feed children when school is out for the summer. Read more »