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Doug O'Brien

Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

-- President Obama, January 31, 2015

The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.

Co-op Month: Much to Celebrate, But Much More to Do!

There is so much to celebrate during National Cooperative Month in October, as the U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. But the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership in co-ops.

It is thus imperative that everyone involved with cooperatives make co-op education and outreach a major priority in the year ahead. That was one of the primary messages of a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).

USDA Office of Communications Marks 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by Asking "Where Were You?"

Where were you? Fifty years ago when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where were you and what were you doing? That was the question asked last week as a capacity audience filled a conference room at the USDA Whitten Building to commemorate the passage of this landmark legislation. The observance, sponsored by USDA’s Office of Communications, attracted dignitaries including USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Malcolm Shorter, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien.

The featured speaker was retired Major General Charles Williams, who now serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Tuskegee University.

Supporting Regional Economic Development Strategies in Oklahoma's Tribal Communities

Rural Oklahoma is home to many important tribal communities.  Among these, the Choctaw Nation spans over ten counties in southeastern Oklahoma, while the Cherokee Nation runs along the state’s northeast border, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation lies farther west.

These communities play a critical role in developing businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure like water, roads, and telecommunications. However, these areas endure chronic poverty, limited opportunities and countless other economic challenges.  For instance, most of the 1,100 residents of Boley, Oklahoma – located in the heart of Creek nation – live on less than 25 dollars per day.

Earlier this year, I joined Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, on a visit to the area.

Silver City, NM, Student Draws Winning Poster for Homeownership Month

The Sixth Street Elementary School in Silver City, New Mexico, has seen a lot of students over the years.  But May 8th 2014 was a very special day at the 130-year-old school. Why? Because 10-year-old Mireya Cisneros, a fourth grader, was honored for her winning illustration for New Mexico’s 2014 National Homeownership Month poster contest.

The theme, “What my home means to me!” was the inspiration for the fourth and fifth grade students who participated in the contest held by USDA Rural Development in New Mexico.

Get Ready for Earth Day 2014: Small Communities Doing Big Projects to Protect Water and the Environment

With Earth Day on the horizon for tomorrow, we at USDA Rural Development are looking forward to sharing some very big news about efforts kicking off across the nation to ensure clean drinking water and healthy watersheds in small, rural communities that face increasing challenges with aging infrastructure, drought and climate change.

As you probably know, Rural Development works hard to help rural communities plan and build the critical infrastructure they need to grow and prosper sustainably.

Opportunities for Local Foods Expanding In Iowa

All across the country local and regional food systems provide a wealth of opportunities for rural residents.  They provide opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and producers to meet growing customer demand for local foods. Local food entrepreneurs are starting to start small businesses like food processing, distribution and retail markets.

Local and regional food systems are also building stronger connections between urban and rural communities.  Eastern Iowa is case in point. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second biggest city, the NewBo City Market features the region’s local food offerings. Secretary Vilsack was on hand in the fall of 2012 to open the 18,000 square foot market, local food distribution center, and culinary training facility.

Funds Promote Development of Rural Wood to Energy Projects

Earlier this week, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and partners took a major step to improve forest management, create rural jobs, prevent wildfires, and expand promising renewable energy opportunities.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined leaders from the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute here in Washington for the announcement of a new partnership agreement. Acting as master of ceremonies for the signing event was Acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien.  Through the Rural Energy for America program and other programs, Rural Development has been a leader in promoting deployment of wood-to-energy projects.

Acting Under Secretary Discusses Food Hubs, Inspects USDA-Funded Life-Saving Helicopters, Medical Facilities, in New York

We recently hosted Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien for a series of site visits and a roundtable with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Western New York state focusing on the possibilities, advantages and challenges of expanding the presence of food hubs throughout the state. I was able to join the Under Secretary as we spoke with rural stakeholders, business owners and farmers from East Aurora, N.Y.

We heard from rural stakeholders, business owners and farmers who knew best what the opportunities and challenges were as we and Senator Gillibrand’s staff shared what resources were available. After all, increasing the number of food hubs will increase market expansion for our farmers goods, providing access to affordable and healthy foods will greatly contribute to the health and well-being of the state and its citizens.

A USDA Loan Guarantee Supports Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Supports Maryland's Oyster Industry

Earlier this week it was my honor to join USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien and Patapsco Bank President/CEO Michael Dee to announce funding support for one of Maryland’s favorite delicacies – the Chesapeake Bay Oyster.

“In today’s environment, economic recovery is the driving factor in everything we do, and our support for this local food project will have many benefits,” O’Brien said. “It will help support jobs and businesses in the region and support an eco-friendly environment that helps restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.”