AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK HOLDS RURAL COMMUNITY FORUM IN NORTHERN COLORADO; LISTENS TO LOCAL RESIDENTS
Vilsack highlights USDA programs and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects improving rural Colorado
BRUSH, CO, May 11, 2009 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited Northern Colorado and held a rural community forum to listen to comments and concerns of local residents. Vilsack also shared information with local residents about the work USDA is doing to revitalize and rebuild rural America through its ongoing programs and projects. Also participating in the forum were Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Mark Udall, and Congresswoman Betsy Markey.
"Rural America is the lifeblood of our country and it is imperative that we do what it takes to keep our rural communities strong," said Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to investing in and revitalizing these communities, in part because they play an important role in our national and international food delivery system."
Vilsack discussed how the USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources and touches the life of every American. Under his leadership, the USDA is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.
Vilsack also noted several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) efforts that are underway in Colorado and across the country through the work of USDA. Some of these efforts to make positive change in the lives of Coloradans include:
The Farm Service Agency is working to distribute the $173 million allocated in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. So far, 13 Colorado farmers have been awarded a total of $682,500 in loans. Of these 9 have been to beginning farmers and 3 have been awarded to socially disadvantaged farmers.
The Rural Development Agency has allocated funds to provide nearly $8.2 million in direct loans and guarantee another $81.4 million worth of loans in the state of Colorado. Already, USDA has helped guarantee 283 loans in the state worth nearly $45.7 million and directly issued another 6 loans worth nearly $600,000. These loans can help rural residents build, repair, renovate, or relocate a home, or to purchase and prepare sites, including providing water and sewage facilities.
Colorado's Forest Service received more than $19.4 million for facility and hazardous fuels projects, including:
$1,543,000 in funding to the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins for a capital improvement and maintenance project to make the lab facility more energy efficient with sustainable energy considerations including installing an alternative energy source on the roof. It will also allow for further consolidation out of leased space.
$5 million for Wildland Fire Management and Bark Beetle Mitigation in Routt, Grand and Jackson Counties in Northern Colorado. The national forests in Colorado have partnered with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps which hires young adults, ages 18 to 25, to work on conservation projects on private and public lands. Using ARRA funding, the forests will put 5 additional 10-person Youth Corps crews to work removing dead hazard trees from developed recreation sites and hiking trails thus opening campgrounds, recreation sites and trails which will support Colorado's tourism industry by maintaining outdoor recreational opportunities.
Two other Fire Management projects will receive more than $10 million for forest restoration and fuel mitigation in Gilpin and El Paso Counties, both in central Colorado.
Colorado will receive $3.58 million in funding for watershed rehabilitation projects to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities. In fact, in April USDA announced $2.5 million in Recovery Act funds for the Beaver Creek Project, an effort to reduce soil erosion, protect the South Platte River, and enhance wildlife in rural northeastern Colorado.
On April 1, 2009, benefits increased in Colorado and nationwide for households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit as a result of ARRA. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. Additional SNAP benefits in Colorado will total more than $177 million. The state of Colorado also received an additional $1.2 million to help administer the program.