AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK HOLDS 'RURAL TOUR' COMMUNITY FORUM IN MICHIGAN
Discusses Administration Efforts, Collects Ideas on Strengthening Rural America
CHARLOTTE, Mich., July 13, 2009 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited Michigan and held a 'Rural Tour' community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, listen to local residents talk about how USDA can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This event follows the launch of the Obama Administration's 'Rural Tour' in June, and is the ninth 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 Michigan and across the country, including the following:
Through USDA's Rural Development, 22 communities in Michigan will benefit from $73.3 million in investments in local water and waste systems.
Through USDA's Rural Development, approximately $3 million will be made available for 23 community facilities projects. Casco Township will benefit from a $650,000 loan and $50,000 grant for a new Fire Hall, while Mecosta County Medical Center will benefit from a $50,000 grant for new medical equipment.
USDA's Forest Service will provide $13.3 million for 11 projects, including 9 projects in the Hiawatha National Forest. Through the Recovery Act funding, roads will be reconstructed, watersheds will be restored and trails will be reconstructed.
USDA's Forest Service will provide $12.2 million for 3 projects for wildland fire management. As a result of the grants, hazardous fuels will be removed to limit the potential for future fire outbreaks.
USDA's Rural Development has helped guarantee 2,195 loans worth $210 million in the state of Michigan through the Single Family Housing Loan program. These loans help residents and producers to have access to the capital they need to keep rural communities strong.
USDA's Farm Service Agency is working to distribute the $173 million allocated in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. So far, 89 Michigan farmers have been awarded a total of $8.3 million in loans to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies.
USDA announced funding for a floodplain easement projects in Ottawa County, Michigan. This Natural Resources Conservation Services funding will reduce the impact of flooding on the Lower Grand River Watershed.
The Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of $87.5 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Michigan. 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. The State of Michigan also received $6.2 million in State Administrative Funds.
USDA is also helping low-income Michigan residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $5 million in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in Michigan also will benefit from $2.6 through the National School Lunch Program.
In June, President Obama announced that Secretary Vilsack will lead the Administration's Rural Tour to visit rural communities in states throughout the country. 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 Concord, N.H., Danville, Ind., Geneseo, Ill., Harrodsburg, Ky., Ludowici, Ga., Portageville, Mo., and Brush, Colo.