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What I Would Have Said Today to Vice President Biden about the Recovery Act

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Initiatives Rural
Feb 21, 2017
Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland.  The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland. The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This blog is cross posted from Secretary Vilsack's Medium page:

Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President's effort to lead the Administration's implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA:

1. 254 broadband expansion projects that are improving access to high speed broadband for over 260,000 households and 17,500 businesses. One of those businesses is a grain elevator in North Carolina I visited several years ago that is now able to provide up-to-the-second market prices for producers.

2. 820 water and wastewater treatment projects that are providing cleaner water to over 2.8 million rural residents. One of those residents was a 80-year-old woman in Georgia that had running water in her home for the first time in her life.

3. 1053 community facilities built, including 312 schools and libraries, 178 health care facilities, and 563 public safety operations. One of those health care facilities was in Pocahontas, Iowa where folks can now recruit new businesses by displaying state of the art health care services.

4. 479 businesses helped by ARRA to create jobs in rural America. One of those small businesses is located in Napoleonville, Louisiana, and is now employing 35 people.

5. 92,000 single family loans that enabled families to enjoy the pride of homeownership. One of those families is a Native American family who welcomed me to their new home in New Mexico.

6. 45 million people received the benefit of increased SNAP benefits, which cut the poverty rate among children by more than 50 percent during the recovery.

The Recovery Act helped move the country from near depression to 71 consecutive months of private sector job growth - the longest period in history. In rural areas for the first time in 25 years, we have agriculture related employment exceeding 1.4 million and median family farm household income at record levels. With the Vice President's leadership, the Recovery Act moved quickly to bring needed investment to create a brighter and more hopeful future for all Americans.

Category/Topic: Initiatives Rural

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Robert Wallace
Feb 17, 2016

In Oregon we used the ARRA funds to help the American Farmer, we worked with Agricultural Producers throughout Oregon on a total of 39 projects. The focus was water and energy conservation, this work produced annual savings of 1.6 million kWh or saving these Agricultural Producers roughly $130,000 each year in pumping cost. We seen several other benefits including yield gains, substantial water savings, crop quality improvements, and improved operation practices on the farm. We continue this work throughout the Pacific Northwest, water and energy conservation are a necessity as we have years of drought and electric rates continue to increase.

As an RC&D council we worked with the local Conservation Districts and Rural Electric Cooperatives to get these projects on the ground.

Robert Wallace, CEM
WyEast RC&D - The Dalles, OR

Dave Brockes
Feb 17, 2016

Secretary Vilsack,
In a recent radio interview you mentioned how critical it is for this Country to focus on Bio-Security within our AG industry; and it's a growing concern everyday.
For the past three years we have been trying to work through various Governmental and NGO sources to get our Bio-Secure Barns for confinement production funded and constructed.
We have tried every year with Capitol Peak Asset Management Bank and Co Bank to get funding for our Bio-Secure Barn developments which will provide a complete and secure envelope for Confinement Animal Living and Growing Facilities.
For our Project we also incorporate Waste to Energy Technology as Profit Center that not only offers us every particle and drop of moisture back for us to use or re-use throughout the Farm operation but also provides for the fuels to operate our equipment and the Energy to serve the whole of all our operations; from the Custom Feed Mill to the on-site Processing Plant.
Did I misunderstand our Presidents plan; "White House Rural Council Announces $10 Billion Private Investment Fund to Finance Job-Creating Infrastructure Projects in Rural America"? Was this announcement more about helping those that have already given their help where it was needed? Perhaps in part, but I don't believe for a minute it was really about jobs, rural growth or economic development in rural America.
We would have brought more than 1000 jobs to one of the most depressed Counties in all the USA; just in Phase I of our Project.
Certainly there have been those that have been helped and no doubt there have been others that have been told flatly, no!
But time after time without really taking time to consider what we are about or what we can offer the Agriculture Industry; not once was a question asked of us or a request for more information ever requested.
From my point of view, IMHO, the people making the decisions for these Programs are there to simply meet their own, or special interest, agendas.
We have a few things we could offer Mr. Secretary; maybe not perfect but for sure on the right track and given the opportunity and getting more input from the vast talent that abounds in our Country to hone the Technologies that will evolve from the Project development a great deal stands to be gained within the Agricultural environment.
The opportunity to prove it and have someone step to the plate is all that we ask.

David Friedman
Feb 24, 2016

I wish you could have said that after all these years NRCS has adopted a soil management standard and soil management practices that will further our conservation initiatives by building, restoring and sustaining physical. Chemical and biological soil conditions. And when a farmer applies for cost share programs USDA is now ready to fund and help install effective soil management practices.