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Release No. 0378.11
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USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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USDA Officials Meet With Alaska Business Owners to Discuss Job Creation and Southeast Revitalization Opportunities

KETCHIKAN, Alaska, August 24, 2011 – Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman, joined by USDA's Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathon Adelstein and other officials, recently met with business owners, including timber, tourism, and fishing industries, to discuss ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The meeting is part of a series of rural roundtables that are being held across the country this summer with senior Obama Administration officials on behalf of the White House Rural Council.

"The vitality of rural America is critical to the well being of this country," said Sherman. "Alaska's economy is a critical element in the economic health of this nation. Sustaining rural communities and helping the economy grow is vital not only here in Alaska, but across the country."

Sherman and Adelstein were accompanied by USDA's Forest Service, Farm Service Agency and USDA Rural Development officials, who noted that rural Alaska communities are facing challenges that require the private sector and the public sector to work together.

"This has led to the development of a strategic investment plan for the Department, said Sherman. "This plan will be a critical element in the Tongass Transition Framework policy that will help guide all USDA agencies in their efforts to support and help maintain Southeast Alaska's economic vitality."

"President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are committed to improving the economy of rural America and helping to create the opportunity for businesses to provide new jobs," said Adelstein. "USDA has funded broadband projects, clinics and facilities including the Wrangell Medical Center. We want to do more. This roundtable gives us an opportunity to hear directly from Alaskan residents concerning their ideas on ways we can expand the economic base here."

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on National Forest System land contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. USDA Rural Development provides financing for business, economic and housing related infrastructure. Today's event served as an opportunity to share with participants about USDA programs and other the resources across the federal government that can help revitalize and enhance Southeast Alaska's communities.

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