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Category: Rural Development

REAPing America’s Clean Energy Future

Administrator Sam Rikkers discussing the Central City Solar Garden Project

Administrator Sam Rikkers (left) discusses the Central City Solar Garden Project with (L-R) City Administrator Chris Anderson, Cliff Mesner of Mesner Development Company (with his back to the camera), and Bill Sheppard and Jeff Carpenter of USDA Rural Development’s Nebraska offices.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska. Read more »

Collective Solar Victory in Virginia

Deputy Secretary Lillian Salerno speaking with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

Deputy Secretary Lillian Salerno speaks with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe at the commissioning of BARC’s new solar project in Rockbridge, Virginia

Many people in this country would love to use solar or other types of renewable energy in their homes, but barriers may exist to stifle interest in small-scale renewable energy implementation.

Not everyone has the roof space, the sunlight, or the money for a solar energy project. Not everyone has the weather or the local know-how for a wind energy project. The list could go on, but any hurdles such a list might include will no longer hinder the residents of Rockbridge, Bath, Highland, Augusta and Alleghany, Virginia, from realizing their goal of using clean energy in their homes. Read more »

Empowering America: USDA’s Cooperative Month Celebration

USDA National Cooperative Month Proclamation

USDA National Cooperative Month Proclamation (Click to view a larger version)

October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”

Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership. Read more »

The Bio-Based Economy and Renewable Energy: USDA’s Record of Success

Bear Mountain Forest Products Owner Bob Sourek

Bear Mountain Forest Products plant owner Bob Sourek in Oregon produces BBQ pellets and home heating fuel pellets. Bear Mountain Bear Bricks (similar to firewood logs), and animal bedding are produced at the Cascade Locks facility.

One of the hallmarks of the Obama Administration has been our commitment to economic growth through an expanding bio-based economy.  Nowhere is that transformation more pronounced than the success of renewable energy.   And USDA Rural Development has been a leader in that effort.

The proof is in the numbers: Domestic energy-related emissions have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years.  Our dependence on foreign oil is at a 40-year low and declining. In the last eight years, USDA has helped lead an effort to promote the domestic production and use of advanced biofuels and biobased products, supporting millions of jobs and pumping hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars into the U.S. economy. Read more »

Stronger Economies Together: Helping Rural Counties Excel through Regional Approaches

Soil scientist Gary Bañuelos evaluating canola plants

Canola is the subject of a rural economic growth project in Western Oklahoma. USDA ARS image

Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) play a unique role in USDA’s service to rural America. They link the research and educational outreach capacity of the nation’s public universities with communities, local decision makers, entrepreneurs, families, and farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of development issues.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides core funding for RRDCs and integrated research, education, and extension activities.

By Rachel Welborn, project manager with the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University

How can rural communities compete in an ever-expanding global market?

Rural counties across the country are finding innovative ways to capitalize on their local strengths.  Through a guided process, more than 400 counties in 38 states are discovering new ways to work together to grow their economies. Read more »

Working Together to Develop Local Strategies for Strong Rural Communities

The USDA and Smart Growth America team touring the historic Greer Mill

In preparation for the workshop in Alton, Missouri, the USDA and Smart Growth America team tours the historic Greer Mill, which is being revitalized as an educational facility and event space through a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit Friends of Eleven Point River.

How will decisions about where we locate new development or upgrade existing infrastructure impact our future economic vitality and fiscal health?  How can we site and plan public facilities and housing so they have the greatest benefits for our community?  How can we rebound from years of population loss?  How can we capitalize on our unique history to become the kind of place we want to be in the future?  These were some of Alton, Missouri’s residents’ many questions Smart Growth America addressed during a recent USDA Rural Development supported technical assistance workshop.

During my visit to Alton, I was amazed at this small town’s vision, energy, and commitment to revitalizing its economy and improving the lives of its 870 residents.  Local leaders are bringing life back to their downtown by improving the built environment and hosting cultural events, developing the regional food system, strengthening tourism to nearby National Forests and beautiful rivers, and more.  However, I’ve seen rural communities with similar dreams fall short of their goals due to a lack of technical expertise, local capacity, financing, and partnerships.  That’s why USDA is working with Smart Growth America to bring innovative solutions, funding ideas, and insights from their experiences around the nation to communities who want a brighter future. Read more »