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Posts tagged: Rural

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager Addresses New England Housing Network Annual Conference

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager was among those attending the New England Housing Network Annual Conference last Friday in Needham, Mass., The Under Secretary joined a panel of Obama Administration officials who spoke about opportunities for working with the administration and Congress.  Panelists included Sandra Henriquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing; Barbara Sard, Senior Advisor for Rental Assistance, HUD; and William Apgar, Senior Advisor for Mortgage Finance, HUD.  The panel was moderated by the Massachusetts president of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, Vincent O’Donnell.

Under Secretary Tonsager listed seven key priorities USDA Rural Development intends to focus on in order to stimulate America’s rural economy. They include: Community Development; Regional Development; Broadband Infrastructure Development; Regional Food Systems; Renewable Energy/Energy Independence; Capital Delivery and Strategic Partnerships.

The panel moderator, who also serves as Vice President of the Affordable Housing Preservation Initiative, said that having the Under Secretary at the conference was a testament to the Obama Administrations’ commitment to providing affordable housing regionally and nationally.  Barbara Fields, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) told Under Secretary Tonsager: “seeing you here is almost as good as watching New York’s Derek Jeter shag balls from Boston’s Big Papi!”* Information about USDA Rural Development’s housing programs is available here.

(*Quite the compliment from a Red Sox fan!)

Vincent O’Donnell, President of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association/Vice President of Affordable Housing Preservation Initiative; D. Tonsager; Joseph Belden, Deputy Executive Director of Housing Assistance Council

By, USDA Rural Development State Director Jay Healy. Mass., R.I., Conn.

USDA’s Forest Service Provides 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree to Be Lit Today

As we approach the end of the year, millions of Americans are counting their blessings and many are bringing Christmas trees into their homes to celebrate the season.  At USDA, the Forest Service helps with the nation’s holiday traditions by providing a tree to be displayed as the Capitol Christmas Tree.  This year’s tree, a 65-feet tall Blue spruce, will be will be officially lit today at 5:00 PM EST by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Kaitlyn Ferenick, a 7th grade student from Arizona. Read more »

Red Cloud Indian School Uses Recovery Act Funds to Spark Advancement

The Red Cloud Indian School is located about five miles north of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Shannon County are often listed as being among the poorest areas in this Nation.  Within this Third World environment the school provides a safe learning environment for Native American students.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February will help provide a much-needed economic boost to this rural area.  Recently, I joined Area Director Tim Potts to present the School with federal funds totaling $941,000. The money will be used to provide teacher housing, a new heating and cooling system and a sewer lift station at the school. The money is a combination of Recovery Act funds and dollars from USDA Rural Development’s standard allocation to South Dakota. Read more »

Missouri Utilizing Recovery Act Funding for Water Improvements

I found it very rewarding to see the rural town of Gideon, Missouri utilizing the Recovery Act funds to make their water system safe.  The water project is one of the first in the nation to benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that President Obama signed into law in February.

I presented Mayor Ron Wakefield of Gideon a Certificate of Appreciation on Friday, November 13, 2009 for his vision of tapping into the ARRA funds for essential improvements for the safety of his residents.  Senator Claire McCaskill and Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson were represented at the ceremony along with the Engineer, Contractor and City officials.

The City was awarded $2.4 million in USDA Rural Development dollars with a combination loan and grant to correct serious deficiencies in the 1930’s existing water distribution system that serves 454 residents and small businesses in the community.  Based on pay estimates, the staff advised me that they are over one third completed in making the necessary repairs.  I was proud to see the dollars at work with backhoes trenching and new water lines being installed.

Some of the folks I talked to made me aware that Gideon’s water distribution system has been plagued by problems for many years and has deteriorated to a point that monthly water outages are a common occurrence.  The City has been under intense scrutiny since the waterborne salmonella disease outbreak of 1993, which contaminated the City’s 100,000-gallon elevated tank.  Many upgrades were performed at that time, and again in 1997 when contamination was again confirmed, but serious concerns still existed regarding the more than nine miles of distribution lines.  Officials told me that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of bands on the old lines to stop leaks.

With the funding provided to the City of Gideon by Rural Development, the existing distribution system will be completely redesigned.  Approximately 80% of the water lines will be replaced with all new, metered service lines, providing the City with adequate pressure to service its customers.  Improvements will also be made to the well house, chlorine feed system and a backup generator will be installed for emergency power.

It would be an understatement to say that the impact of these funds on this community is really monumental!

While attending the ceremony I met Slayton Boone, a student reporter from the Gideon High School.  He had an interesting perspective on the water improvements.  In fact, he relayed the story to Rural Development that the water system improvements was one of the “top ten”  items that appeared on T-shirts regarding improvements needed in Gideon. The phrase “No boil order on Water” was a not a desirable item but unfortunately a reality.

It makes me feel good to know that the Recovery Act funds helped create construction jobs but even more important is that this investment will remove a serious health hazard for this rural town and make it a better place to live for the future.

- Jane Dunning, Missouri State Director, USDA Rural Development

In-patient Hospice Care Close to Home

Steve Richard of SUN Home Health and Hospice and Tom Williams, Pennsylvania State Director, USDA Rural Development at the SUN Home Hospice Care Center ribbon cuttingI recently had the pleasure of participating in a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with Steve Richard, President/CEO, SUN Home Health and Hospice and otherstakeholders, for a new hospice center located within the Sunbury Hospital. USDA Rural Development awarded Sun Home Health Services, Inc. $99,500 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant funding to create a six-bed inpatient hospice unit within the hospital.  Terminally ill cancer patients in Central Pennsylvania now have an alternative to travelling 30–150 miles to an urban area for short-term in-patient hospice care. Read more »

USDA: A Farm Team Worth Playing For

My first three weeks interning for USDA have been extremely interesting and enjoyable.  A native of Austin, Texas, I grew up spending most weekends on my grandparents’ farm, the same farm where we currently raise Texas Longhorn cattle. Instead of returning to Austin after the baseball season, I came to Washington, DC to take advantage of this great opportunity to learn about both agriculture and the government while also making a difference.

I knew USDA played a significant role in the lives of farmers and ranchers, but I continue to be amazed by the breadth of programs and agencies here.  Rural Development, for example, does amazing work in rural communities, from building hospitals to improving water supplies to increasing the availability of broadband internet.  I also have a greater appreciation for USDA’s role in disease and pest control and its significant impact on the success of our country’s agricultural output and economy over the years.

In addition to learning about USDA, I have been afforded some great opportunities through my internship.  This week I went to a Tribal Leaders Reception for the National Congress of American Indians.  I met several interesting people, both tribal leaders and people who work in other departments of the government.

The reception was held in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  It was my first time visiting the museum and reminded me of all the great museums and government buildings in Washington, DC.  I have been to a few of them now, with my favorite two being the Library of Congress and the National Archives.  I’m looking forward to more great experiences in the weeks to come.

Ross Ohlendorf, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is spending part of his off-season at the United States Department of Agriculture. A graduate of Princeton University, he is spending eight weeks as an intern with USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Photo of Ross Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf