As we begin the year, I want to share with you a few numbers that help measure USDA’s impact for America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities over the past three years:
- To help keep American agriculture profitable and keep farmers on the farm, USDA maintained a strong safety net. Over the past three years, our crop insurance program has paid out about $16.2 billion to more than 325,000 farmers who lost crops to natural disasters. Other programs have provided nearly $3.5 billion in aid to help more than 250,000 farmers and ranchers recover from natural disasters. Read more »
Secretary Duncan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and their agencies are working together to support community colleges as they provide postsecondary education and career training in rural areas.
Cross posted from the Department of Education blog:
It’s no secret that community colleges are leading the way to achieving the President’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. Community colleges are hubs for career-training, re-training, adult education and for recent high school graduates seeking a pathway into the careers of their choice. Read more »
It’s a bit boggling to imagine so much broadband technology could be woven into the far reaches of Alaska’s vast wilderness, but on August 25th it became a reality. Representatives of the organizations and people of Southwest Alaska who are benefitting from this important project, including a variety of local, state and federal officials, met in Dillingham to mark progress on the TERRA-SW project.
When complete, TERRA-SW will make broadband available to more than 9,000 rural Alaskan households and nearly 750 businesses in the covered communities. The project will also serve numerous public, non-profit, private community institutions and entities such as regional healthcare providers, school districts and other regional and Alaska Native organizations. TERRA-SW will provide middle-mile terrestrial broadband service to 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (Y-K Delta), including Bethel, Dillingham and King Salmon. Read more »
This week, I led a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House with leaders of a host of rural organizations to discuss the White House Rural Council. The White House Rural Council, which was established by President Obama on June 9, 2011, will build on this Administration’s unprecedented efforts to spur job creation and economic growth in rural America. Along with Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we discussed the Council’s efforts to improve coordination among federal agencies. We focused in on ways to help better leverage existing federal resources in rural America – and on how to facilitate private-public partnerships that can move the needle in building stronger rural communities.
The meeting was a chance for me to listen to our rural partners on the issues that need to be addressed and discuss potential solutions. Some of the key issues raised included the need to coordinate more with our federal partners on health care, broadband, and other critical infrastructure; how to increase the availability of capital and lending to rural businesses and families; efforts to remove barriers to young and beginning farmers; and strategies for establishing better partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and the private sector. Many of the leaders gathered also expressed appreciation for the renewed focus on rural America and the importance the White House has placed on these issues. Read more »
Access to capital, cutting edge technology and more responsive government programs will help drive rural innovation, according to participants at a White House Business Council roundtable in Charles City, Iowa yesterday. Facilitated by USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein, the forum drew a group of rural business leaders from around the region. They raised issues ranging from the length of time it takes to process passport and visa applications to new regulations on banks and financial institutions.
Adelstein, who is one of the Obama Administration’s leading advocates for rural broadband, heard an extensive discussion of the shortcomings of rural broadband in Charles City. At the same time, rural telephone cooperatives described their success working with RUS to improve their systems. Charles City Mayor Jim Erb told Adelstein there exists a “rural-rural” divide in which some communities receive exceptional broadband service while others do not. Adelstein said the Obama Administration is working to extend high speed broadband throughout rural America and that USDA programs may be able to help. The probability that economic development and job creation in rural areas will be driven by access to high speed broadband was stressed. Read more »
Cross posted from the White House blog:
This morning, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Rural Council, the first entity of its kind established to focus on policy initiatives for Rural Americans. The President’s signature on this document represents a truly historic moment for the nation. I am honored to serve as the Chair of the Council and work directly with my Cabinet colleagues from across the federal government to improve the economic conditions and quality of life for millions of Rural Americans.
President Obama has already established an impressive record in rural areas, which the Rural Council will build on. The Administration’s record includes substantial investments in rural America to modernize our Nation’s infrastructure, provide broadband access to 10 million Americans, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, and provide affordable health care. Nevertheless, the President believes that even more needs to be done in order to fully capitalize on the emerging opportunities in Rural America. Despite recent advances, rural communities continue to struggle to maintain the population and businesses needed for sustained economic growth. Read more »