National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.
Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential. In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »
America’s rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million people living and working in rural communities across the country. Co-ops, with support from USDA, have embraced renewable energy production. Today, they deepened that commitment by announcing new solar projects that will generate more than 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.
At an event in California, President Obama was joined by two West Coast industry leaders—Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) based in Portola, California, and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC), based in the state of Washington—to highlight industry efforts to expand renewable energy production.
USDA has been an advocate and partner in co-ops’ efforts to diversify their portfolios and expand their renewable fuel sources. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $1 billion in renewable energy projects that will generate more than 447 MW – enough energy to power 160,603 American homes annually. Read more »
A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.
In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.
Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year. Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.
In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »
Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water—not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.
Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. Read more »
Rural Americans have always had a strong connection to the land. Since 2009 alone, more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and rural land owners across the country have embarked on record conservation projects with USDA as a partner. This week, USDA built on those efforts by announcing two new conservation programs that provide producers with even stronger tools to protect land and water resources across rural America.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) were both established under the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP, which streamlines several existing USDA easement programs, makes available $366 million per year to a variety of public and private partners for conservation easements. The easements provided through ACEP help ensure the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion of productive lands to non-agricultural use, while simultaneously protecting critical wetland resources.
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Last week, farmers and ranchers began signing up for disaster assistance programs that were restored by the 2014 Farm Bill. While it took a year to implement disaster relief programs after the last Farm Bill was passed in 2008, disaster programs were up and running in just 60 days this time around, thanks to hardworking Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees in more than 2,000 offices across the country. These disaster programs will not replace all of the losses farmers and ranchers faced, but it will provide some relief and help ensure that extreme weather won’t cause families to lose the farm.
After just one week, I am pleased to say that we’ve received more than 10,000 applications for these programs. Approximately 95 percent of the applications were for the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), which provides payments to eligible producers for grazing losses. The high number of applicants is no surprise considering the widespread, ongoing drought that has plagued livestock producers in the West Coast and Midwestern portions of the United States for nearly three consecutive years. Read more »