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Category: Rural Development

South Dakota: A Strong Force in Economic Development

Legends Suspensions owner Jesse Jurrens demonstrating a custom manufactured spring coil

Legends Suspensions owner Jesse Jurrens demonstrates a custom manufactured spring coil from their Sturgis-based manufacturing center.

To me, the phrase ‘economic development’ is more than a buzzword – and that was reinforced during an all-too-brief trip to western South Dakota. It’s easy to get caught up in the policymaking and program implementation in Washington, D.C., and I find great value in getting to the field so I can see exactly how these programs are helping our local stakeholders and partners, small business lenders, and entrepreneurs make investments in the local economy.

I started out the day in Sturgis, where we met up with Legends Suspensions owner Jesse Jurrens. With the backing of two Business & Industry Guaranteed Loans, Jesse has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally. With his lean and efficient business model, he’s become a global force in motorcycle suspensions. We also visited Landsport, another Sturgis-based business that specializes in manufacturing and marketing aluminum loading ramps, drop deck ramps, service ramps, and other custom applications. Landsport used a Business & Industry guaranteed loan to expand its production and work staff. After meeting with the staff at both facilities, I walked away knowing these operations have a long-term vision for success and growth.  USDA and our lending partners helped give them the freedom to execute that vision. Read more »

Safe and Secure Rural Homes: Continuing the Tradition in Kentucky

Tex Peyton's new home beside the old home

Tex Peyton's new home is shown under construction next to the old one.

USDA celebrates National Homeownership Month each year in June, and we continue to shine the spotlight on projects across the nation. I wanted to illustrate the work we do to provide ladders of opportunity for rural residents who might not have such an opportunity without the support of USDA Rural Development.

I had the pleasure of meeting one such person this week. His name is Tex Peyton and for the past 18 years he lived in a basic two-room house in Eastern Kentucky that lacked indoor plumbing. Read more »

Veteran Farmers, In Their Own Voice


“Agriculture is not often the first thing people think of for returning veterans. That’s why we are elevating the discussion about veterans and agriculture.”  ~Secretary Vilsack

 This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with  Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and I met with 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women came to USDA to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture. Many of them participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.

As the Department’s Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison and a veteran of the Marine Corps myself, I know there are many reasons military veterans turn to agriculture. For some, running a farm business gives them an opportunity to put their logistical training to work. For others, farming lets them continue serving their community. Many veterans talk about how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life. And still others discuss how agriculture gives them purpose.

No one can explain the deep connection between veterans and agriculture better than veteran farmers themselves. Here are a few of their voices. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

Building a Better Future Together: Homeownership Month 2015

Homeowner Michelle Amrine taking a selfie with a crew of folks helping her build her home

Homeowner Michelle Amrine takes a selfie with a crew of folks helping her to build her home in Ohio.

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 USDA makes sure they are not forgotten. I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the means to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty.  This month, Homeownership Month, we are celebrating a program that has helped rural families locate and climb ladders of opportunity into the middle class: The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

Fifty years ago USDA initiated The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to provide very low- and low-income families the opportunity to achieve the American dream of homeownership, and in 50 years, USDA has partnered with more than 100 non-profit Self-Help Housing Organizations to help 50,000 rural American families accomplish homeownership. Read more »

Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities

Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart

Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart.

Last month, the Obama Administration and the White House Rural Council, with Secretary Vilsack as the chair, launched Rural Impact, a coordinated effort across federal agencies to strengthen rural economies by supporting children and their families.

Today, Secretary Vilsack is in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference. Speaking with delegations from over 20 countries, he is discussing a new report, summarized below. This report examines what we know about kids living in rural poverty in the U.S. and how we can best assist them to reach their full potential.

If we invest in our rural communities, especially children and families experiencing poverty in these areas, we will be building a stronger country for our future.

Cross-posted from the White House blog: Read more »