Jessica Wirgau, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley and Kevin Byrd, Executive Director of the New River Valley Planning District Commission, celebrate the near completion of a successful three-year federally-funded community planning process.
One of the challenges with implementing USDA Rural Development programs is that many of the communities we serve have not had the opportunity to develop strategic plans to guide federal infrastructure investments effectively. Fortunately, a 2010 grant from HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities enabled the New River Valley Planning District Commission to engage the public in the rural Southwest Virginia counties of Pulaski, Montgomery, Giles, and Floyd and all the major towns to develop a blueprint for future economic activity.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a meeting where over 100 rural citizens in the New River Valley gathered to put some of the finishing touches on the 3-year regional planning process, known locally as their Livability Initiative. I came away inspired by the dialogue that has evolved over the past three years and am looking forward to seeing how the communities in this economically diverse rural region look for ways to implement some of the ideas they have generated to improve their communities and enhance long-term economic opportunities. Read more »
Oklahoma Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen joins project representatives, elected officials, and community representatives to cut a ribbon officially declaring the completion of the 1st of 30 towers, comprising the new broadband network. USDA photo.
Reinforcing USDA’s commitment to connecting rural America to the global economy, Oklahoma USDA Rural Development State Director Ryan McMullen, cut the ribbon on a new high-speed internet network, projected to serve more than 4,000 rural Oklahoma residents, many of them Native American, and 1,400 businesses.
The Oklahoma-owned company, @Atlink, that secured the funding for the project, hosted the event at the site of the completion of their first of thirty towers. The new, vast network will span from I-35 near Ardmore, to the northeast to Sapulpa, while covering sprawling areas between Pauls Valley and Muskogee. @Atlink secured $8 million for this project through the USDA Broadband Initiatives Program. The funding for their loan/grant combination was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »
Today is National Rural Health Day, and I’m giving a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to talk about what USDA Rural Development has done to strengthen access to health care in our rural communities, as well as carry a message from President Obama on the importance of this day.
Critical care infrastructure is a challenge in any community, and in our rural areas it is often compounded by distances that are unthinkable to those who live in our urban centers. Take Alaska, for example: Yesterday we announced investments to bring an ambulance and emergency medical equipment to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The nearest hospital facility is almost 800 miles away in Anchorage. That’s like someone in Illinois having to come to Washington, D.C. for medical care. Read more »
Retiring of colors at the end of the ceremony by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Kit Fox Society honor guard.
USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh recently joined Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal and community members for the dedication of the Tribe’s new administration building, which was constructed with a $31.2 million Community Facilities loan from USDA. The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe resides on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota, primarily in Roberts County.
“This impressive building is the result of the largest Community Facilities loan that Rural Development in South Dakota has ever made,” Kunesh said. “The building will serve as a central hub to help Tribal members with their social, educational, and housing needs.” Read more »
Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.
I am thrilled to share with you some very good news from Oregon’s high desert. Ralph Lauren, the iconic American brand and U.S. Olympic team sponsor, recently announced they will be using wool produced by one of our Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) participants, Imperial Stock Ranch, to make sweaters for Team USA to wear at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
The news would be big for any small rural business. For one working tirelessly to find new ways to profitably preserve Central Oregon’s nearly extinct–yet very American–tradition of raising sheep for fiber, this is especially gratifying.
Imperial Yarn is the value-added business offshoot of Jeanne and Dan Carver’s family owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch, which produces sheep, cattle, grains, hay and grasses on more than 30,000 acres of stunning Central Oregon rangeland. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack (center left, second row) meets with members of the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Late last month it was my privilege to join representatives from multiple USDA agencies at Wisconsin’s Mole Lake Indian Reservation to discuss ways to work together, across agency lines, to provide needed services to Tribes. Thanks to funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other USDA programs, the Obama Administration has boosted federal support for Tribes, but now we are working to step up our effort even more, to work as one to support projects and initiatives that the Tribes have told us they support and need. As we observe Native American Heritage Month, it is important to note that this effort is consistent with Secretary Vilsack’s “One USDA” policy. The intention is to have “one USDA speaking with one voice.”
Because we are such a large department, sometimes those seeking services just don’t know where to start. At USDA we are moving to unify our brand identity and broaden our outreach. We know that when a member of a Tribe approaches a USDA representative, they don’t want a process. They want an answer, and we should be giving them answers from all of our agencies. That was the message I shared with my USDA colleagues at Mole Lake. Read more »