AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK HOLDS 'RURAL TOUR' COMMUNITY FORUM IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Discusses Administration Efforts, Collects Ideas on Strengthening Rural America
CONCORD, N.H., July 6, 2009 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited New Hampshire and held a rural community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, to listen to local residents talk about how USDA can assist them, and to discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This event follows the launch of the Obama Administration's 'Rural Tour' last week, and is the eighth similar forum Vilsack has led since being sworn in as Secretary.
"To rebuild and revitalize our country, President Obama and I want those affected by decisions made in Washington to participate in the process of developing innovative solutions and charting a path for rural America," said Vilsack. "It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about each community's vision for its future and to collect ideas about how USDA can better serve these communities."
At today's rural community forum, Vilsack discussed how 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 highlighted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in New Hampshire and across the country, including the following:
Through USDA's Rural Development, four communities will benefit from millions of dollars in investments in local water and waste systems. In the City of Franklin, USDA will provide a $3.6 million loan in conjunction with $3.5 million grant to construct a groundwater treatment facility. The North Conway Water Precinct will also receive a $3.9 million loan and $4.2 million grant. In Franconia, a $2.2 million loan will be combined with a $1.9 million grant to improve local drinking water. Meanwhile, White Rock Cooperative Estates will receive a $400,000 loan with a $468,000 grant.
USDA's Forest Service will provide $1.3 million for three projects in the White Mountain National Forest. Through the Recovery Act funding, roads will be reconstructed, new motor vehicle signage will be installed and portions of heavily used hiking trails in Carroll, Coos, and Grafton counties will be reconstructed.
USDA's Rural Development has helped guarantee 200 loans worth $30.5 million in the state and directly issued another 32 loans worth $5.1 million through the Recovery Act. These loans help residents and producers to have access to the capital they need to keep rural communities strong.
USDA is working to distribute the $173 million allocated in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. So far, three New Hampshire farmers have been awarded a total of $175,000 in loans to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies;
USDA announced $569,403 in Recovery Act funding for 2 floodplain easement projects in New Hampshire. This Natural Resources Conservation Services funding will reduce the impact of flooding.
The Recovery Act provided for increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. USDA estimates SNAP recipients in New Hampshire will receive more than $4.7 million in SNAP benefit increases. The State of New Hampshire also received $351,941 in State Administrative Funds.
USDA is also helping low-income New Hampshire residents to be able to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $341,340 in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. The State also will benefit from $215,765 through the National School Lunch Program.
Last week, President Obama announced that Secretary Vilsack will lead the Administration's Rural Tour to visit rural communities in states throughout the country. Vice President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the Rural Tour on Wednesday in Wattsburg, Pa., at an event announcing Recovery Act funds to expand broadband service in rural America.
Secretary Vilsack is scheduled to lead Rural Tour events with a variety of other top administration officials over the coming weeks and months in Alaska, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. These upcoming events follow the rural listening sessions that Secretary Vilsack held earlier this year in Danville, Ind., Geneseo, Ill., Harrodsburg, Ky., Ludowici, Ga., Portageville, Mo., and Brush, Colo.