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distance learning and telemedicine program

$1 Billion Invested in Rural Health Care Across 13 States

In late 2011, the President announced a White House Rural Council initiative lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in rural health and link rural doctors and hospitals to financing for health IT. The initiative was designed to address the need for financing to support the adoption of health IT systems in rural communities.  Financing has been cited as one of the top challenges for rural doctors and hospitals serving remote and poor communities.

Between 2012 and 2014, the HHS and USDA led initiative generated approximately $1 Billion in rural health care financing across 13 states. These investments, funded by USDA, included grants and loans to help rural clinics and hospitals transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), encourage exchange of health information with health care providers and patients, and offer telehealth services.

Back to School: New Opportunities for the Virtual Classroom

Back to school means a fun and exciting way to learn for students of Anderson Public School in rural Gallatin County, Montana. Using a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant from USDA Rural Development, Anderson Public School and nine other rural schools in Montana installed the necessary equipment to connect their students to share and expand learning opportunities.

Through the web-based portable videoconferencing equipment, the students in this community southwest of Bozeman, Montana have already been able to move beyond the walls of their classroom. The 4th grade class made a virtual visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and as the 8th grade students rode the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, their classmates in the 7th grade were able to join from back in Montana thanks to the equipment. Enterprising students are already coming up with new curriculum to share with their peers, including a student-led class on using a green screen to make your own videos.

USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Meets Partners in North Dakota to Promote the Promise of Rural America

Turning on a light, running water from a faucet, or calling a friend are activities that most of us take for granted. Rural utility providers are the lifeblood in their communities offering services important in our everyday lives and in supporting rural industries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides support to expand and modernize these services.

Recently, Acting USDA Rural Utilities Administrator John Padalino visited North Dakota to host a meeting, which focused on creating partnerships that benefit the future of rural America. Key players in this conversation were the water, electric, and telecom providers. Padalino noted that without basic infrastructure, we would have no support for our rural economies, which are critical to the success of our nation.  All of us depend on rural America for our food, water, and energy.

On its 150th Anniversary, USDA Upholds Abraham Lincoln’s Vision

Over the coming weeks, the landscape in Oklahoma will change dramatically as state-of-the-art combines comb meticulously through fields of golden wheat, allowing Oklahoma farmers to deliver an estimated 150 million bushels to their local grain elevators. The varieties harvested were exhaustively developed to maximize yield and minimize susceptibility to pests, while improving milling and baking qualities.

Such innovation allows today’s farmer to feed over 150 people, each farmer producing five times as much as our grandparents, and doing it with less land, water, energy, and fewer emissions. Agriculture has advanced significantly over the 150-year history of the department charged with its support.

Appreciating Rural Teachers

Today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, we have an opportunity to say “thank you” to America’s educators.   In particular, I’d like to send a brief message of thanks to our teachers working in small towns and rural communities across the United States.

A quality education is imperative to the lives of children in every corner of our country, no matter where they live. This can be more challenging in smaller rural schools that face unique geographical challenges, tight budgets and barriers to technology in the classroom.

In USDA’s 150th Year, the REA’s Successor Continues to Have Impact on Rural South Dakota Communities

As USDA celebrates its 150 year anniversary; we remember many milestones such as the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) establishment in 1935.  In the 1930’s, only about 10 percent of rural folks had electricity while people living in town had 90 percent coverage across the nation.  With the assistance of REA funding, by 1942, nearly 50 percent of US farms had electricity, and by 1952 almost all US farms had electricity.

Rural Roundtable: Strengthening Maine’s Economy

It was a unique opportunity for Maine leaders to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects for Maine’s economy at a Rural Roundtable held earlier this month, at the Rural Development State Office in Bangor. The Roundtable, facilitated by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel, brought the participants together with Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud for a candid discussion.

USDA Support Helps Keep the Lessons of World War II Alive for Future Generations

The ranks of the people who fought in, and personally remember World War II, the people journalist Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” are rapidly thinning.  My mother, who heard the announcement over a Zenith radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, is now in her 90’s.  My father, who served in Europe during World War II, died in 1987.  Many families share similar histories.  Virtually every American family was touched in some way by World War II.  Many lost loved ones in the conflict.  But with the war over 60 years in the past, personal memories of the war are fading.

Those memories and the recollections of those who fought are vividly alive in Abilene, Texas, at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum.  Recently, the museum was awarded part of a USDA Distance Learning Grant.  That grant will be used to provide materials to explain the War and its aftermath to future generations.

Teaming Up to Support Rural Community Colleges

Cross posted from the Department of Education blog:

It’s no secret that community colleges are leading the way to achieving the President’s goal for the United States to once again have the highest college attainment rate in the world by 2020. Community colleges are hubs for career-training, re-training, adult education and for recent high school graduates seeking a pathway into the careers of their choice.