AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK BRINGS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S 'RURAL TOUR' TO OKLAHOMA
Agriculture Secretary Discusses Revitalizing and Rebuilding Rural America at Redlands Community College
El Reno, Okla., September 16, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited the Redlands Community College 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 the federal government can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities.
"To overcome challenges and be successful in a new, 21st century economy, President Obama has asked that we reach out to people in rural communities across the country to listen, learn and facilitate problem-solving," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about Oklahoma'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.??
Secretary Vilsack also highlighted the USDA's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in Oklahoma and across the country, including the following:
USDA's Rural Development has helped guarantee 1,604 loans worth more than $165 million in the state of Oklahoma 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 providing $5.21 million through 111 Direct Operating Farm Loans. These loans help farms purchase items such as livestock, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, farm chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced more than $14 million for 7 watershed rehabilitation projects and over $3.1 million for 11 watershed operation projects. In addition, the USDA will be investing $2.8 million for 4 floodplain easement projects.
Through USDA's Rural Development, $1.35 million will be made available for 14 community facilities projects. Community Facility Grants will allow towns across Oklahoma to purchase critical emergency service vehicles and equipment, build Emergency Operations Centers and community centers.
USDA's Rural Development has issued three Rural Business and Enterprise Grants for a total of $888,749.
Through USDA, the Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of more than $259 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Oklahoma. 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 Oklahoma also received over $1.6 million in State Administrative Funds.
USDA is also helping low-income Oklahoma residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $1.45 million in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in Oklahoma also will benefit from over $1.5 million through the National School Lunch Program.
USDA's Rural Development is providing over $21 million to help make improvements at 5 water and waste treatment projects.
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 Nebraska and New Mexico. This is the nineteenth similar forum Secretary Vilsack has led since being sworn, and this event follows rural listening sessions held in Zanesville, Ohio, Modesto, Calif., Sedalia, Mo., Des Moines, Iowa, Hamlet, N.C., Bethel, Alaska, St. John Parish, La., Blairs, Va., West Salem, Wis., Charlotte, Mich., Concord, N.H., Wattsburg, Pa., Danville, Ind., Geneseo, Ill., Harrodsburg, Ky., Ludowici, Ga., Portageville, Mo., and Brush, Colo.
USDA recently launched a new website and social media tools designed to enhance discussions and facilitate innovation for challenges facing rural America. All Americans can follow the Rural Tour's progress online at www.RuralTour.gov,
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