During the President's Midwest tour this week several announcements were made of funding from USDA for various programs that follow the recommendations of the White House Rural Council. The council wanted to increase opportunity by increasing credit in rural America; promote innovation, especially in renewable energy; a renewed commitment to quality of life and strengthening of community; and working with natural resources to create economic opportunity.
"Over the course of the last week USDA has been active and engaged in making announcements in all four of those areas," Vilsack said. "Last week we announced the largest single conservation grant in the northern Everglades. Earlier this week we announced with the Small Business Administration their commitment to double their efforts to provide credit in rural areas over the next five years."
On Thursday Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a teleconference with reporters to discuss additional rural investments that USDA is making.
"Today we continue this effort on promoting stronger communities by announcing 107 community facility projects that we will be providing assistance to in 31 states and Puerto Rico," Vilsack. "These include 39 educational facilities, 16 health care facilities, 18 public buildings that will be improved and built and 34 public safety vehicles and equipment."
USDA will spend $55 million on these projects.
Also this week work was done to set up conferences to help get more venture capital into rural America and USDA is partnering with the Department of Labor to use USDA field offices as locations for people to get information from DOL on job opportunities that might be available.
"We also announced a very creative partnership between the Departments of Defense and Navy, Energy and USDA to commit $510 million to help build a commercial biofuels industry for the aviation needs of the Navy," Vilsack said. "And hopefully ultimately over time the jet fuel needs of commercial aviation in the United States."
Also this week close to an additional 900 awards from the Renewable Energy for America Program were announced. Vilsack says REAP is a program that provides grants to farmers and ranchers to better incorporate renewable energy techniques and technologies into their operations.
"It's an opportunity for us to continue this program, which has seen close to 5000 grants being made from USDA," Vilsack said. "That's certainly going to improve the bottom line for farmers and ranchers and produce additional opportunities."