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Category: Rural Development

From Recovery to Renewal: Rural America’s Partner for Prosperity

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack swearing into office the new Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) Lisa Mensah

Secretary Vilsack swore me in to be the Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD), and I'm so proud of the work we've accomplished.

Eight years ago this month, the US economy went into free fall. The crash of the housing market led to a chain of historic levels of bankruptcies and layoffs. The stock market would eventually lose 20% of its value; family incomes, investments, and home values were being crushed. Along with that, the hopes and dreams of many families.

One month after stepping into office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the greatest single investment in our nation’s economy since “The New Deal.” Read more »

USDA Proudly Supports the LGBT Community in Oregon and Nationwide

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival along with representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service on August 13.

I recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in southwestern Oregon. We stood side-by-side with our counterparts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. When this festival began 25 years ago, the idea of a government agency participating was unthinkable. At that time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals had no assurance of equal treatment when requesting government services or financial assistance. In fact, it was not so long ago that federal employees suspected of being gay were fired from their jobs. This sad chapter in our history saw careers destroyed and lives irreparably damaged.

I am deeply proud of the tremendous progress we have made nationally and at home here in Oregon to correct those past mistakes. USDA has been among the first federal departments to participate in Pride festivals across Oregon, and we have been leading the way nationally in the arena of LGBT civil rights. We were one of the first federal departments to enact protections specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. USDA has instituted training for our employees, and we have been making a concerted effort to reach out to our LGBT customers, partners, and potential future employees. As I handed out information on the financial programs in Rural Development and the career opportunities available with USDA in a park festooned with rainbows, I experienced first-hand the incredible strides we have made in recent years toward a new era of civil rights. Read more »

Growing a Community – One Family at a Time in Huron, S.D.

Nyo Maung with his child

Nyo Maung with one of his six children enjoying some free time in the front yard of their new home.

There are stark differences between Huron, South Dakota, and the Thailand Refugee Camp where the Maung Family started their journey. There are cultural differences, language barriers, and vast contrasts between the way people live and work in these two pinpoints on opposite sides of the globe. The Maung family journeyed from Thailand and have been welcomed into the community of Huron, South Dakota. They are enjoying the American culture and are adjusting well to life in their new community.

It takes strong community partners working together to create thriving communities and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Even though the Maung family has limited knowledge of the English language, that barrier did not prevent them from pursuing the American dream of homeownership through USDA. They worked with a language interpreter to engage several partners that worked together to assist with the application process of becoming new homeowners. Read more »

Helping a Growing Family Build Their Own Home

The McLane family

With assistance from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Program, the McLanes' were able to become first-time homebuyers in Liberal, Kansas. USDA Rural Development has provided more than $6 million in home-loan financing through the Agency’s Single Family Housing Direct Program to Liberal Self-Help Program participants like the McLane Family.

As I watched Matthew McLane’s children play in the front yard of their home, I could tell how much this family loved being homeowners.  Matthew and Candice McLane became first time homebuyers through the Agency’s Mutual Self-Help Program in 2012.  The couple, and their two daughters, had been living in an apartment prior to building their home through the Self-Help Housing Program.  Now the couple has three children, and one more on the way this fall – and the house is filled with love and joy as the family prepares for the arrival of its newest member.

Listening to Matthew describe the self-help process, you can tell how much pride he has in his home.  He describes putting his sweat, blood and tears into the home, but loving every minute of it.  From learning how to hang drywall, to laying flooring or installing shingles, it was all new experiences and skills that Matthew learned.  When repairs are needed to the home now, Matthew is able to do the home maintenance and repairs himself. Read more »

Reflecting on the American Dream

Rural Development Virginia State Director Basil Gooden (left) and RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez (right) with Alias and Ansam Khader

Rural Development Virginia State Director Basil Gooden (left) and RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez (right) present Alias and Ansam Khader (and their adorable daughter) the symbolic key to their new home.

Last month, I had the privilege of witnessing the American dream come to life for a Rockingham, Virginia family who has just purchased and built their first home with the help of a USDA Rural Development (RD) direct low-interest loan. It was an honor to help Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Virginia Rural Development employees and local officials welcome Alias and Ansam Khader and their three children to their newly constructed home, which we did via a key presentation ceremony on the family’s new front porch.

Prior to the ceremony, I had the opportunity to spend time with the Khaders as they graciously took me and others on a tour of the house. They shared with us stories of their journey to this special day and visions of their bright future. I quickly learned that the Khaders were a remarkable family, having overcome extraordinary circumstances. Read more »

Building Communities Together Nationwide

Building Communities Together Nationwide infographic

Building Communities Together Nationwide infographic (Click to view a larger version)

Owning a home opens up a world of opportunities. A home is an asset that helps families finance education or a business. A home could be the reason you learn how to use a power drill, or the reason you start your first garden. Homeownership helps people become more financially literate all while connecting with their community in ways they may have never connected before.

Now that another Homeownership Month has come and gone, I would like to reflect on the strides the Obama Administration has made toward truly accessible rural homeownership for all. Since 2009 USDA Rural Development has made investments in affordable homeownership opportunities in 3,200 U.S. counties. These investments have benefitted more than 1 million people across the country. Read more »