Rural Economic and Community Development
Since 2009, USDA's partnership with America's rural communities has supported the emergence of a more vibrant, diverse rural economy led by makers, creators and innovators. Under the leadership of President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA has made significant and transformative investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
Growing Businesses and Supporting Community Development
- Helped 102,882 rural businesses grow through grant and loan support, creating or saving 449,302 jobs.
- Helped more than 1.1 million rural families buy-many for the first time-repair or refinance a home. Provided funding for 3,450 multifamily housing developments.
- Invested in more than 7,540 critical community facilities projects, including 137 public schools, 406 libraries, 928 health care facilities, and 3,198 public safety facilities.
- Leveraged $4.12 billion in third party funds through public-private partnerships to build or revitalize 80,412 units of rental housing in rural communities.
- Through its Rural Opportunity Investment initiative, USDA continues to seek out ways to attract incremental private sector investment to rural America.
- In 2014, USDA and its partners announced a new $154.5 million investment Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) that will help propel the growth of small businesses across rural America. The RBIC will allow private equity investments in agriculture-related businesses, including bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields. The fund made five investments in 2015, totaling $25 million. In 2015, USDA also conditionally licensed two additional Rural Business Investment Companies.
- In 2014, USDA also worked with CoBank, a national cooperative bank and member of the Farm Credit System, to announce a $10 billion Rural Infrastructure Opportunity fund. This fund is supported entirely by private sector dollars with an initial investment from CoBank. Through the Fund and its expanded public-private partnerships, in 2015, USDA facilitated the investment of nearly $161 million in private capital in 22 critical water and community facilities projects in 14 states.
Investing in Critical Infrastructure
- Improved the availability of quality health care and education in rural America by investing in more than 8,283 educational and health care facilities through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
- Investments made by USDA through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have brought new or improved high-speed internet service to six million Americans who live and work in rural areas. Investments funded through ARRA build on USDA's financing of additional expansions to rural broadband service throughout rural America, which expands access to state-of-the-art health care, educational and cultural resources, and gives rural businesses the connectivity they need to compete in the global economy.
- Improved and modernized rural electric infrastructure that serves over 5.5 million rural residents and businesses and funded more than 180,000 miles of electric line. In addition, we have made strategic investments in renewable energy, smart grid technology and air quality improvement technologies.
- Since 2009, USDA has helped provide improved water and wastewater services to nearly 18 million rural residents by investing $12.3 billion in 5,174 projects.
Promoting New Strategies for Economic Growth
The latest data (PDF, 3.4MB) indicate a rural America on the road to recovery. Rural employment has increased; rural population decline did not increase over the past year and some rural counties have seen population growth; and the rural child poverty rate has declined by one percentage point. These trends are promising, but still, 6.2 million rural Americans are living in poverty, including 1.5 million children. In far too many places, these high rates of poverty have persisted for generations. Despite unprecedented investments, rural access to critical health and social services often lags behind that in urban and suburban areas. One in four children in rural America live in households that don't know where their next meal is coming from, or are forced to buy cheaper, less healthy foods. USDA continues to invest in innovative strategies that address the unique needs of rural and Tribal areas and drive economic growth, upward mobility and self-sufficiency.
- Despite USDA's investments, there are parts of rural America where persistent poverty remains. In fact, nearly 85 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural areas. In order to address the challenges faced by those communities and help them prosper, in 2010, USDA established the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative, a broad commitment to grow economies, increase investments and create opportunities in poverty-stricken rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community organizations. Through StrikeForce, USDA has partnered with community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities and other groups, ushering in nearly $23.5 billion in investments in high poverty areas of rural America.
- Recognizing that every child, no matter where she is born, should have an opportunity to succeed, the White House Rural Council launched Rural IMPACT, a cross-agency effort led by HHS and USDA that takes a two-generation approach to combating poverty and increasing upward mobility in rural and tribal communities. The Rural IMPACT demonstration focuses on the promise of engaging entire families in evidence-based programs and services, from early childhood education and healthcare to postsecondary education and workforce development.
- The University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research and USDA recently launched a research program to better understand the relationships between SNAP, food security and health (PDF, 158KB). UK and USDA also established the National Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center to focus on families with children who live in persistently poor counties in 15 states. The goal is to help these families by increasing their participation in USDA's nutrition assistance programs.
- USDA has also partnered with innovators on five demonstration projects designed to help end childhood hunger, especially among rural children, funded through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.