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 »
USDA is supporting economic development strategies in Oklahoma's Indian Country.
Rural Oklahoma is home to many important tribal communities. Among these, the Choctaw Nation spans over ten counties in southeastern Oklahoma, while the Cherokee Nation runs along the state’s northeast border, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation lies farther west.
These communities play a critical role in developing businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure like water, roads, and telecommunications. However, these areas endure chronic poverty, limited opportunities and countless other economic challenges. For instance, most of the 1,100 residents of Boley, Oklahoma – located in the heart of Creek nation – live on less than 25 dollars per day.
Earlier this year, I joined Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, on a visit to the area. Read more »
L to R: Vernon Brown, USDA Community Program Director in Kentucky; RHS Administrator Hernandez; and Thomas Fern, USDA Rural Development State Director for Kentucky.
Recently, I visited southeastern Kentucky, where I joined Rural Development State Director Tom Fern on a whirlwind tour to parts of an eight-county region designated by President Obama as a rural Promise Zone and by Secretary Vilsack as part of USDA’s StrikeForce initiative covering 73 Kentucky counties.
During my first stop, I joined Congressman Hal Rogers as he announced a $23 million loan (funded by USDA’s Community Facilities program) to purchase the property and facilities of the Knox County Hospital in Barbourville. That loan was the first one to come across my desk last December shortly after I joined USDA. Meeting with some of the 200-plus dedicated employees of that hospital affirmed my belief that granting that loan was the right decision, as the funding will enable those healthcare workers to continue to serve the families of the region. Read more »
Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.
Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?
USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »
Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared the beginning of “an unconditional war on poverty in America,” challenging us to bring to bear all of our available tools and resources to address poverty and income inequality across America.
Born poor in the small town of Stonewall, Texas, President Johnson knew well that poverty is not just an urban problem—it spans both rural and urban areas across the United States. In fact, today over 85 percent of persistent–poverty counties are in rural areas, often places that are hard to reach, off the beaten track, or otherwise underserved.
President Johnson pushed us to think creatively and develop innovative efforts to better serve those living in poverty. Here at USDA, our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is investing in projects and strengthening community partnerships that help to address the unique challenges facing poverty-stricken rural areas. Read more »