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 »
Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.
All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »
Cross-posted from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog:
With summer’s arrival, officials at the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are preparing for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Our offices recently hosted a nationwide conference call to thank faith and community leaders for their work in this area and to inform them about efforts surrounding the SFSP this summer. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the call, challenging community leaders to strive for an aggressive, but attainable goal: serving an additional 10 million meals over the course of the summer to better reach our children in need. Secretary Vilsack discussed the need for children to be well-nourished, an essential part of our commitment to helping children learn and thrive. Read more »
This week, I visited Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a small city outside of my hometown of Pittsburgh to kick off the first of five Made in Rural America forums designed to help rural small businesses access the information they need to grow through exports.
The global appetite for high-quality, American-made products is well established. Over the past five years, rural America has achieved record agricultural exports, but the rural economy is diverse. Last fiscal year, agricultural exports reached a record $140.9 billion and we are on track for another record year, with fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports projected to reach $149.5 billion. Last year was also the fourth-straight record-setting year for U.S. exports as a whole, reaching $2.3 trillion. Read more »
With support from a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in rural Greensboro, Vermont was able to expand its facility, grow its business and reach new markets.
Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced a historic level of funding available for local and regional food: $78 million, including $48 million through USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and $30 million through the newly-expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The 2014 Farm Bill gave USDA these and other tools and resources, expanding our ability to connect rural and urban communities, increase access to healthy foods, and support rural economies through local food systems.
What does this mean for rural economies? Consider Cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. The Kehler brothers took their passion for dairy and founded a cheese making operation 10 years ago. Partnering with Vermont’s Community National Bank, USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program helped the company construct a 22,000-square-foot facility and expand its on-farm value-added cheese production. The project helped save 20 existing jobs and created 14 new ones in a town with fewer than 1,000 residents. Read more »
Tune in for a White House Rural Council Conversation on Local Food on Monday, June 9 at 12:45pm ET.
How is investing in regional food economies an investment in rural America? How can rural America benefit from the growing demand for local food? How are local food systems supporting the economy in your town?
On Monday, June 9 at 12:45 ET, the White House Rural Council will host Regional Food Economies: Building Market Opportunities for Rural America, a conversation between USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Dan Carmody of Detroit’s Eastern Market Corporation, and Melissa Rivers of the East Arkansas Planning and Development District moderated by Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Read more »