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Ahead of Earth Day, USDA Announces Clean Water and Environmental Projects for 60 Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2016 – This week, representatives from USDA's Rural Development team will be celebrating Earth Day by visiting newly funded projects that will improve rural water quality and safety in 33 states across the country. USDA is investing $183 million in 60 water and wastewater infrastructure projects through Rural Development's Water and Environmental Program (WEP), which provides technical assistance and financing to develop drinking water and waste disposal systems for communities with fewer than 10,000 residents.

"Safe drinking water and sanitary waste disposal systems are vital not only to public health, but also to the economic vitality of small communities," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Helping rural communities build and upgrade their water infrastructure is one more way USDA strengthens rural areas. Building and maintaining water infrastructure creates jobs, boosts the economy, and provides rural families with safe, reliable water and wastewater facilities that improve the environment."

The city of Coggon, Iowa, for example, is receiving a $2.3 million WEP loan and a $1.89 million WEP grant to construct a wastewater treatment plant and upgrade a plant to benefit the city's 658 residents. The funding will help the city meet new pollutant standards and eliminate manual cleaning. Without the new system, waters downstream from the plant could become contaminated, potentially harming human health and the environment.

Seventeen of the Earth Day recipients announced today are receiving funding priority through a 2014 Farm Bill provision that encourages communities to adopt regional economic development plans. These projects are centered on collaboration and long-term growth strategies. They leverage outside resources and capitalize on a region's unique strengths.

One of these recipients, the Big Lake Area Sanitary District in Minnesota, is receiving a $2.9 million loan and a $4.5 million grant to build a wastewater treatment plant serving Perch Lake and Sawyer townships and the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. This collaborative effort will convert the treatment plant into a pressure sewer collection system. Much of the plant is inadequate or failing.

The project supports the Fond du Lac Community Economic Development Plan, which highlights the importance of providing adequate wastewater treatment services and protecting the health and welfare of people who live or work on the reservation. Improving water quality will increase the fish population, which will boost local tourism revenue.

Funding for each project announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant or loan/grant agreement.

This WEP funding builds on USDA's historic investments in rural America over the past seven years. Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support rural communities and American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials.

USDA has provided $5.6 billion to farmers and ranchers for disaster relief; expanded risk management tools with products such as Whole Farm Revenue Protection; helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit; provided $4.3 billion in critical agricultural research; established innovative public-private conservation partnerships such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program; developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (#USDARD) has invested $11 billion to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. For more information, visit


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