AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK BRINGS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S 'RURAL TOUR' TO SOUTH DAKOTA
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Discusses Administration Efforts, Collects Ideas on Revitalizing and Rebuilding Rural America
BATH, S.D., October 5, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Jim Hundstad Farm today 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 Secretary Vilsack. "It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about South Dakota's vision for its future and to collect ideas about how USDA can better serve these communities. The thoughts, ideas and concerns for the future I heard in Bath were a reminder of the strength and optimism I have seen in communities throughout rural America."
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 South Dakota and across the country, including the following:
USDA Rural Development is providing over $26.7 million to help make improvements at eight water and waste treatment projects.
USDA's Farm Service Agency is providing $10.2 million through 176 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 Forest Service is providing $5.27 million for 5 projects. This work will reduce sedimentation in streams, restore water quality and fish habitat and provide safe public transportation.
Through USDA Rural Development, $5.47 million will be made available for 15 community facilities projects. Community Facility Grants will allow towns across South Dakota to purchase critical emergency service vehicles and equipment, build Emergency Operations Centers and community centers.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced $1.9 million for three watershed operations projects.
USDA Rural Development has helped guarantee 13 loans worth more than $1.7 million in the state of South Dakota 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 Rural Development has issued eight Rural Business and Enterprise Grants for a total of $871,382.
USDA Rural Development has issued one Business and Industry loan guarantees for a total of $5 million.
Through USDA, the Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of more than $10.7 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in South Dakota. 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 is also helping low-income South Dakota residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $266,000 in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in South Dakota also will benefit from $255,000 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 other top administration officials over the coming weeks. Monday's event is the twenty-second similar forum Secretary Vilsack has led since being sworn in, and follows rural listening sessions held in Las Cruces, N.M., Scottsbluff, Neb.; El Reno, Okla.; 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, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RuralTour, or on USDA's Facebook fan page available at www.facebook.com/usda.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272(voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).