WASHINGTON, August 18, 2011- Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host an on-the-record media call to announce new investments in rural America and to give a recap of the White House Rural Economic Forum that was held with President Obama in Peosta, Iowa this week. The Forum brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities nationwide.

The 31 state and Puerto Rico receiving support from USDA include : Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.

Thursday, August 18
11:30 a.m. (EDT)

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will host a media call to announce new investments and to give recap of the White House Rural Economic Forum.

DIAL IN: 1-800-857-5233

Passcode: USDA (Given Verbally)

Troubleshooting: 202-720-8560

All callers using the above pass code will be placed in listen only mode. To join the Q&A portion of the meeting, these callers are instructed to press *1 on their touch tone phone.



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DES MOINES, IA, August 16, 2011- On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a White House Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.  As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack will discuss the Rural Council's new policy recommendations, which focus on key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

Friday's event follows on President Obama's White House Rural Economic Forum today in Peosta, IA, and allows attendees at the Iowa State Fair to participate in a Rural Forum.  Secretary Vilsack will give a recap of what was discussed with President Obama today.

Friday, August 19, 2011
10:00 a.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum with businesses leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders  to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.

WHERE: Iowa State Fair
Penningroth Media Center in the Cattle Barn
Des Moines, IA

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- Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America-

 

Next Week President to Host White House Rural Economic Forum

 

WASHINGTON, August 12, 2011 - Today, the White House Rural Council released a new report entitled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, which lays out the economic landscape rural Americans face today and highlights the Administration's key accomplishments in rural communities.  The Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America report focuses on five critical areas: creating jobs and promoting economic growth, improving access to quality health care and education, fostering innovation, expanding outdoor opportunities, and supporting veterans and military families.

 

"This report on "Jobs and Economic Security in Rural America" underscores the commitment my Administration is making to rural communities," said President Obama.  "It highlights some of the many programs and policies my Administration has implemented in rural America to support economic growth.  It also offers a look at the economic agenda we will continue to pursue during my Presidency."

 

"This report highlights the importance of understanding some of the specific needs as well as unique opportunities found within rural America," Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack said. "It also presents vital strategies that can and will be used to seize those opportunities and tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our rural communities." 

On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council to accelerate the ongoing work of promoting economic growth in rural America.  The Council is focused on increasing rural access to capital, spurring agricultural innovation, expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas, and creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.

 

On August 16, the President and members of the White House Rural Council will host the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, as part of the President's three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest. The Forum will bring together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns across the nation.  The President will engage directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.

 

Link to full report here. Highlights from the report include :

 

  • The Administration has made significant investments in supporting job creation in rural America, including providing more than $6.2 billion in financing to help nearly 10,000 rural businesses expand, grow, and innovate, creating or saving over 250,000 jobs; providing more than $5 billion in farm operating and ownership loans to help over 35,000 small and medium sized operations; and expanding U.S. agricultural exports, supporting over 800,000 American jobs and generating a 35-to-1 return on investment.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in improving access to quality health care and education in rural America, including providing assistance to over 400,000 rural homeowners to purchase, build, or repair their homes; financing nearly 6,000 Community Facilities, including over 2,500 public safety facilities, 1,500 public buildings, 1,000 educational facilities, and 750 health care facilities; and providing nearly 9 million rural residents access to a safe water supply and sanitary sewer system and over 3.7 million rural residents access to new or improved systems that will deliver safe, clean drinking water.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in promoting innovation and investment in rural America, including expanding broadband access to over 7 million rural Americans, including more than 350,000 rural businesses; committing nearly $21 billion in loan guarantees to 32 clean energy projects that will create or save nearly 21,000 jobs; creating the TIGER Discretionary Grant Program which has invested more than $220 million in infrastructure vital to rural areas; and installing energy efficiency solutions for more than 5,000 rural small businesses, farmers, and ranchers to help save energy and improve their bottom line through the Department of Agriculture.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in expanding outdoor opportunities to create sustained economic growth in rural America, including enrolling 7.1 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, which retires environmentally sensitive farm lands and has set aside 300,000 acres in the program specifically to benefit game species; partnering military with state and local governments, land trusts, and landowners to secure conservation easements through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) which protects more than 170,000 acres; removing 86,927 tons of biomass from our National Forests to produce energy; and working with farmers to restore wetlands habitat on 470,000 acres in the Gulf coastal plain following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in order to conserve migratory waterfowl.
  • The Administration has made significant investments toward supporting our veterans and military families in rural America, including providing education benefits to over 215,000 veteran students in rural areas and 3,600 veteran students in highly rural areas under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill; investing in more than 500 projects across the VA health care system in support of rural health care, including 404 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and 48 outreach clinics in rural areas, to provide primary health care access to nearly 3.3 million veterans; helping over 300,000 rural veterans and service members purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage through the veterans' home loan guaranty program; and challenging private companies to hire or train 100,000 veterans by 2013, and announcing commitments from numerous companies and organizations who have already stepped up to meet that goal.

 

The White House Rural Economic Forum is just one part of a series of more than 100 events held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials to advance the Council's objectives.  Here are just some of the past and upcoming travel and events related to the White House Rural Council:

 

ALASKA

HHS:  On August 29, Secretary Sebelius will travel to Alaska, where she will visit several remote towns and villages to highlight the rural health and human services needs of tribal populations. The Secretary's Alaska visit includes stops in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Anaktuvuk Pass, Barrow, and Tanana.

 

DOI: From August 6-13, Secretary Salazar traveled to Alaska for a series of meetings, roundtables with business and Native leaders, and tours of key sites pertaining to energy, conservation, and Native Alaskan issues. In Anchorage, Secretary Salazar met with business leaders in Anchorage to discuss the need for safe and responsible development of Alaska's energy resources. In Fairbanks, Secretary Salazar toured the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service firefighting facilities with Sens. Murkowski and Reed.  In Alaska's North Slope region, Secretary Salazar visited an Indian Health Services funded hospital currently under construction in Barrow - the northernmost community in the United States - as well as the Denali National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

CALIFORNIA:

 

USTR: On August 18, Ambassador Kirk will tour the processing facilities of Blue Diamond Growers, located in downtown Sacramento.  There he will observe each step of almond processing from delivery to shipping.  Now 101 years old, Blue Diamond is the world's largest and most respected almond processing and marketing cooperative.  Blue Diamond's membership includes approximately 3,000 California almond producers, who grow 1.5 billion pounds of almonds, valued at $2 billion, every year.   California growers produce more than 80% of the total world almond supply, and nearly 70% of the almonds processed by Blue Diamond are marketed and sold to customers in over 90 countries.  Following the tour, Ambassador Kirk will participate in a roundtable discussion with California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and California agriculture industry leaders.

 

FLORIDA:

 

USDAOn August 11, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will tour the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility in Vero Beach, FL.  The facility is receiving a loan guarantee from USDA Rural Development to help build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of electricity.  While at INEOS, the Secretary will announce a series of joint USDA and Department of Energy grants to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops. 


ILLINOIS:

DOT: On August 19, Secretary LaHood will visit the Illinois State Fair, where he will hold a roundtable meeting with rural farm and business leaders from central Illinois.  While there, he will highlight the agency's commitment to no new transportation regulations for farmers, and to continuing common sense agricultural exemptions to trucking and heavy equipment rules.  Secretary LaHood will also discuss the importance of road, bridge, rail and port investments to growing our agricultural economy and expanding exports.


IOWA

USDA: On August 19, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.   As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is exploring ways to strengthen economic conditions, create jobs, promote innovation and improve access to essential community services in rural America.

 

VA: On September 1, Secretary Shinseki will host a rural roundtable in Des Moines. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America.  VA has placed 12 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.

 

MARYLAND:

USDA: On July 21, Secretary Vilsack and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance held a rural roundtable during Maryland Ag Day in Annapolis.  The Secretary met with Maryland businesses leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in Annapolis, MD.

MINNESOTA

 

VA: On August 31, Secretary Shinseki will go to St. Paul to attend the State Fair. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.

MISSOURI:


USDA:
On July 27, Secretary Vilsack gave the keynote at the Council on Foundations 2011 Rural Philanthropy Conference in Kansas City.  The Secretary called on representatives of philanthropic organizations from across America to "step up, take risks and work creatively to create jobs, improve quality of life and make an impact on rural America." During his keynote address, the Secretary urged philanthropists to partner with the Obama Administration, through the White House Rural Council to drive smart investment strategies in rural America.

 

HHS:  On August 1, Secretary Sebelius visited the Learning Junction Childcare Center in Joplin, where she toured the St. John's Mobile Medical Unit, met with Joplin officials, and hosted a discussion on mental health, child trauma, and school planning.  Later in the day, the Secretary visited a Critical Access Hospital in Aurora, MO, where she met with hospital leadership and took part in a roundtable discussion on rural health issues.

 

MONTANA

 

DOI: On July 15, Secretary Salazar hosted a rural water infrastructure event on Crow Reservation in Montana to celebrate the recently approved Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement, which will ensure safe drinking water for the reservation as well as provide for the rehabilitation of the Crow Irrigation Project. The Secretary also delivered keynote remarks at the Land Consolidation Consultation in Billings, where he discussed the importance of creating economic opportunities in rural communities through conservation and outdoor recreation.  On July 16, Secretary Salazar hosted rural lands conservation and outdoor recreation events in Ovando and the Blackfoot River Valley to highlight community-based partnerships. Secretary Salazar also hosted a youth focused outdoor recreation and jobs event in Kalispell that focused on the economic impact of Glacier Park to northwest Montana.

 

VA: On July 7-8, Secretary Shinseki held three rural events in Montana.  The events were held in Helena at the Montana National Guard Armory, in Bozeman at Montana State University, and in Billings at the Billings VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. Each event included a roundtable discussion where the Secretary listened to local veterans and highlighted the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. Secretary Shinseki has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America. VA has placed several community-based outpatient clinics and established tele-health services throughout Montana.

 

NEBRASKA

 

VA: On August 19, Secretary Shinseki will join Sen. Ben Nelson to host a rural roundtable near Lincoln.  VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America.  VA has placed 11 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. Plans are underway for a new $560 million Omaha VAMC to replace the 60-year-old hospital.  The facility provides a full range of patient care services, education, and research for veterans in a 104-county area of Nebraska, western Iowa, and portions of Kansas and Missouri.

NEVADA

VA: On August 17, Secretary Shinseki will host a rural roundtable near Las Vegas.  VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority and the department continues to develop new ways to reach Veterans in rural parts of America.  VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. VA is expanding services in the Las Vegas Area with a new comprehensive VA medical center complex nearing completion in North Las Vegas that will have a $1.2 billion economic impact to the area and create 1,850 permanent medical jobs.

NEW MEXICO

HUD:  On August 22, Secretary Donovan will visit a hospital under construction in Rio Rancho. A $143.4 million Section 242 mortgage insurance commitment was issued to finance the construction of the hospital in Rio Rancho, a suburb 20 miles northwest of Albuquerque. The new facility is affiliated with the University of New Mexico (UNM), UNM Hospital, the UNM Medical Group, and the UNM School of Medicine. The loan will finance a new 200,000-square foot, 68-bed state-of-the-art community teaching hospital with a high surgical case load on 20 acres of land.  At an interest rate of 6.0 percent, in comparison to an unenhanced bond interest rate of 7.7 percent, FHA insurance will save the hospital $64.7 million in interest expense over the life of the loan.  The construction project will support 1,877 FTEs in its community and provide an economic stimulus of $386.4 million during the construction period.  Following construction, the completed project will directly support 445 FTEs and provide a direct annual economic benefit of $85.8 million.

 

 

NORTH CAROLINA

 

DOE: On July 25, Secretary Chu visited Celgard, an innovative and high-tech battery manufacturing company, in Concord.  Celgard recently expanded their existing manufacturing facility with support from the Recovery Act to create more than 200 jobs in rural North Carolina.  Celgard is one of the largest suppliers to the lithium battery industry, which are instrumental in increasing the capacity of electric drive vehicles and helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Afterwards, the Secretary was joined by local business leaders at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte for a roundtable discussion on the growing clean energy industry in rural communities.  Like Celgard, the companies that Secretary met with are critical to our future: to pioneering and commercializing technologies that reduce our consumption of foreign oil and creating jobs and supporting economic growth. 

NORTH DAKOTA:

 

VA: On July 5, Secretary Shinseki held a rural event in Bismarck at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic where he held a roundtable discussion to listen to local veterans and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America.

OREGON:

CEQ:  On August 9, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley toured a Federal-County-State funded partnership with local business and conservation groups that is creating local jobs and building a renewable energy market in John day, Oregon.  Byproducts from the U.S. Forest Service's Malheur National Forest restoration project are used by Malheur Lumber Company and Pellet Plant to create wood pellets which are in turn used to provide energy to local schools, the local hospital and John Day Airport.  Malheur Lumber Company's recent expansion, financed in part by a Recovery Act grant, has allowed Grant County, Oregon to retain 6% of its private non-farm workforce. The wood pellets and bricks manufactured at Malheur Lumber will reduce energy costs by $4.4 million across the regional economy and represent the economic opportunities presented through conservation and collaboration between governments and local communities and businesses.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

 

EPA: On August 3, Administrator Jackson traveled to Lancaster County and visited Jeff Balmer, owner of a 60-head dairy farm that is using a variety of best management practices to protect water quality in the community and further downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. The Administrator toured Jeff's farm and he explained how these practices allowed him to prevent runoff and retain soil, making his operation more efficient and sustainable. The Administrator also participated in a roundtable discussion with around 50 area farmers and leaders about ways to protect rural air and water quality and strengthen rural economies.  The Administrator pledged to continue communicating directly with farmers and other stakeholders in rural communities about the shared goals of clean air, clean water and increased economic opportunities rural America.

 

TENNESSEE

 

ED:  On August 10, Secretary Duncan traveled to Nashville to host a WH Rural Council roundtable discussion with several rural superintendents, school principals and business leaders, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, at Vanderbilt University. The conversation focused on challenges and solutions in rural schools and how the federal government could best support districts, communities and local partners to strengthen schools and increase student success. Duncan highlighted the ways education can transform rural economies and the opportunities that technology offers all students to receive a world-class education no matter where they live.

TEXAS:

 

USTR:  This fall, Ambassador Kirk will visit the Texas State Fair, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary from September 30 to October 23.  Held annually at Fair Park in Dallas, the fair proudly displays the unique scale and diversity of Texas' people and products.  Millions of visitors from all 50 states and many countries around the world flock to Dallas each October to sample the best the Lone Star State has to offer in terms of food, fun, and entertainment. Featured attractions include the largest new car and truck show in the Southwest, legendary livestock exhibitions, major music concerts, and classic college football.

VIRGINIA

OSTP: On August 5, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra visited Blacksburg to discuss rural job creation and to hear from local entrepreneurs and business leaders about ways we can partner to spur job growth in rural communities across the country. Chopra toured two local startups, made remarks at an event hosted by the Regional Technology Council, and hosted a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other key stakeholders.

WEST VIRGINIA:

SBA: On July 14, Administrator Mills visited a high tech business that was named West Virginia's small business of the year in 2010. The business, Azimuth, Inc. located in Fairmount, was started by a service disabled veteran with an SBA loan and grew through SBA's 8(a) Federal Contracting Program.  Azimuth is an impressive manufacturing company, creating rural jobs of the future focused on protecting our borders.  It is a high technology services firm that is dedicated to quality, innovation, and performance and is a strong advocate of teaming, actively seeking to establish long term strategic alliances with both large and small firms.

 

WISCONSIN:

 

USDA: On August 4, Secretary Vilsack held a forum at the Wisconsin State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.   The Secretary took questions from the audience and highlighted job creation and how agricultural trade is contributing to Wisconsin's economy.

 

DOI: On July 14, Secretary Salazar keynoted the National Wildlife System Conference, where he addressed the Obama Administration's commitment to working with ranchers, farmers and other private landowners to ensure protection of large, rural landscapes and the abundance of fish and wildlife - and announced a new initiative that will spur these collaborative efforts through community-based coalitions of private landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. The Landscape Stewards program, a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will leverage up to $200,000 to support coalition-based conservation efforts beginning next year, with each grant matched by equal contributions from the coalition partners - part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative.

 

NEW ENGLAND

DOI: From August 15-19, Secretary Salazar will travel to the Northeastern United States to highlight the importance of America's outdoor economy in creating jobs and discuss the economic value of conservation for communities across the country, placing an emphasis on rural areas where protecting vital habitats contributes greatly to strong local economies.  The four-state tour will take Secretary Salazar and key partners in the Senate to Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire to meet with outdoor stakeholders; tour the parks, refuges, and public lands that serve as recreation destinations for tourists and travelers from around the country - helping to create jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry; participate in events that encourage youth to get outside and explore the great outdoors; and visit the retail shops and outfitters that help power this key section of our economy.  The Secretary's trip will focus on discussions with leaders in Northeastern rural communities about creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.

 

 

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., July 27, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that rural telecommunications companies have been selected to receive nearly $192 million in loans for projects that will deliver broadband services to rural customers across eight states. These funds represent the latest investment from The Department of Agriculture's Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program and will add thousands of miles of cable to the telecommunications grid in rural America. The announcement was made by Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein on Vilsack's behalf at the summer meeting of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunication Companies in Minneapolis.

"A significant portion of America still does not have adequate broadband for job and economic development activities," Vilsack said. "Working with our partners, including cooperatives and the telecommunications industry, USDA delivers broadband to rural areas, creating jobs and providing critical financial, educational and health care services. We've made a good start, but it is clear that the work of the Obama Administration and USDA is far from done."

Administered by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), this financing is part of the $690 million investment during fiscal year 2011 and is in addition to the $3.5 billion in broadband funding RUS awarded for projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The telecommunications infrastructure program funds facilities and equipment to upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural telecommunications networks.

Projects announced today include a $70 million loan to 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (3 Rivers) in Fairfield, Montana to install almost 1,700 miles of buried cable, construct buildings, and install electronic equipment to upgrade 10 exchanges. The deployment of this equipment will make upgraded broadband services available to approximately 4,700 households, 500 businesses, and 82 critical community organizations, such as public safety departments. 3 Rivers provides telecommunications services to subscribers over nearly 17,000 square miles of Montana.

In Oregon, Molalla Telephone Company has been selected to receive a $22.5 million loan to expand a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband system to approximately 85 percent of their subscribers.

Funding of each recipient is contingent upon their meeting the conditions of the loan agreement. A complete list of the rural utilities approved for funding is listed below:

Iowa

  • Farmers Mutual Telephone Company: $18,205,000

Iowa and Missouri

  • IAMO Telephone Company: $14,972,000

Kansas

  • Wilson Telephone Company, Inc.: $14,312,000

Montana

  • 3 Rivers Telephone Cooperative, Inc.: $70,000,000

Oregon

  • Molalla Telephone Company: $22,500,000

Texas

  • Coleman County Telephone Cooperative, Inc.: $22,540,000

Washington

  • Western Wahkiakum County Telephone Company: $12,708,000

Wisconsin

  • Baldwin Telecom, Inc.: $16,716,000

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.

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CHARLES CITY, Iowa - July 26, 2011 - USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein met with businesses leaders from north central Iowa today to discuss ways local communities and businesses can collaborate with state and federal agencies to help improve economic conditions and create jobs. The meeting today was part of a series of roundtables that are being held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials on behalf of the White House Business Council and White House Rural Council. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is the chair of the White House Rural Council.

"Today's roundtable was a tremendous opportunity for me to learn about the challenges local businesses owners are facing and what type of opportunities they see ahead," said Adelstein. "It was clear that creating new job opportunities is extremely important for rural Iowans. The federal government, through its various programs, is committed to helping improve economic opportunities in rural America."

In the last 10 years 66 of Iowa's 99 counties saw a population decline, with counties in north central Iowa facing some of the largest population losses of any area of the state. Floyd County, which includes Charles City, recorded a 3.5 percent population loss in the 2010 Census compared to 2000 figures. Of the eight counties surrounding Floyd County only one has managed to gain population since 2000.

White House Business Council members plan to host roundtables in at least 100 communities across the country by year-end. The purpose of these roundtables is to listen to local businesses and get feedback on how the Administration can best support their growth. It is also to make sure that local business leaders are taking advantage of the Administration resources and programs designed to help them create jobs and compete.

The meetings give an opportunity for government leaders to hear directly from business leaders around the country about their ideas on how to grow the economy. This exchange also is intended to educate business and community leaders about USDA programs and other the resources within the federal government to help them compete and expand.

In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.

Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

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WASHINGTON, July 15, 2011 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers and ranchers in states across the country that USDA offers a variety of resources for those affected by recent extreme weather, including floods, drought, fires and tornadoes. USDA also urges producers in need or those with questions to contact their local county or state USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency office for assistance. In a recent tour of flooding in Iowa and Nebraska, as well as droughts and wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack promised farmers, ranchers and others that USDA would continue to work hard to deliver assistance to those in need.

"America's farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation's economy and our values, and my heart goes out to all who are facing hardships because of severe weather and natural disasters," said Vilsack. "In the past two months alone, I have visited with hundreds of Americans who have had to put their lives and livelihoods on hold to deal with floods, tornadoes, drought and wildfires. Since the beginning, I have instructed USDA staff in the affected states that our main priority must be to work with farmers, ranchers and others to explain the type of aid that is available. We will continue to listen to your concerns and, whenever possible, offer assistance to help you through these difficult times."

Heavy rainfall, snowmelt, and flood conditions have caused crop damage and slowed planting in many states. USDA's Risk Management Agency reminds producers faced with questions on prevented planting, replant, or crop losses to contact their crop insurance company for more information. Other types of USDA assistance available to those affected by flooding include the Emergency Loan Program and the Emergency Watershed Protection program.

USDA reminds producers affected by drought and fires that resources are available to cover losses, including losses to livestock, crops, orchard trees, and private forests. Types of USDA assistance to farmers and ranchers may include the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), federal crop insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Through spring and summer, drought and wildfires have affected millions of acres of cropland, forests and grasslands in the United States. Drought conditions stretch from Arizona to the southern Atlantic States.

USDA continues working with state and local officials, as well as our federal partners, to make sure people have the necessary resources to recover from these challenges.

To learn more about USDA's disaster assistance, please visit http://www.usda.gov/Emergency_Preparedness_and_Response.html.

To find the USDA Service Center nearest you, please visit http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=us&agency=fsa.

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Event in Kansas is Co-Hosted by the Department of Commerce and Supports the White House Initiative on Small Business Contracting

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2011-- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that Midwest small business owners will have an opportunity at a day-long conference later this month to learn how to grow and support their businesses by partnering with USDA, the Department of Commerce (DOC) and other Federal agencies. The meeting, in Kansas, supports the White House Initiative on Small Business Contracting.

Conference attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a full day of workshops and panel discussions led by program and small business procurement officials. Topics include acquisition needs and opportunities, procurement methods, subcontracting opportunities, business development resources, and more. As part of a continuing effort to increase small business contracting participation by enhancing the competitive posture of small businesses and small farmer-owned cooperatives, there will also be a workshop dedicated to contracting opportunities in rural America. Additionally, there will be an opportunity to meet one-on-one with USDA and DOC small business contracting specialists during a half-day "matchmaking" event.

The conference, hosted by the Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Department of Commerce will be held Tuesday, June 28, 2011, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel, 6100 College Boulevard, Overland Park, KS 66211.

There is no conference fee. Pre-registration is preferred with onsite registration available. To register: fax your name, company name, full address, telephone number and email address to (202) 720-3001, or email to Janet.Baylor@dm.usda.gov by June 24, 2011. For further information please call 202-720-7117 or visitwww.usda.gov/osdbu.

Targeted Conservation Treatment Will Enable Greater Environmental Gains

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2010 - Conservation practices installed and applied by agricultural producers on cropland are reducing sediment, nutrient and pesticide losses from farm fields, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today as he announced the release of a comprehensive study on the effects of conservation practices on environmental quality in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB).

"This important new report confirms that farmers and ranchers are stepping up and implementing conservation practices that can and do have a significant impact on the health of America's soil and water," Vilsack said. "The information gathered for this study will make it possible to quantify the effectiveness of conservation practices for the first time and enable USDA to design and implement conservation programs that will not only better meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, but also help ensure that taxpayers' conservation dollars are used as effectively as possible."

Key findings from the study, "Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Upper Mississippi River Basin" include the following:

Suites of practices work better than single practices;

  • Targeting critical acres improves effectiveness significantly; practices have the greatest effect on the most vulnerable acres, such as highly erodible land and soils prone to leaching;
  • Uses of soil erosion control practices are widespread in the basin. Most acres receive some sort of conservation treatment, resulting in a 69 percent reduction in sediment loss. However, about 15 percent of the cultivated cropland acres still have excessive sediment losses and require additional treatment;
  • The most critical conservation concern in the region is the loss of nitrogen from farm fields through leaching, including nitrogen loss through tile drainage systems.

The study also revealed opportunities for improving the use of conservation practices on cropland to enhance environmental quality. For instance, the study found that consistent use of nutrient management (proper rate, form, timing and method of application) is generally lacking throughout the region. Improved nutrient management would reduce the risk of nutrient movement from fields to rivers and streams. A suite of practices that includes both soil erosion and consistent nutrient management is required to simultaneously address soil erosion and nitrogen leaching loss.

This study is part of a larger effort - the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) - to assess the effects of conservation practices on the nation's cropland, grazing lands, wetlands, wildlife and watersheds. CEAP is a multi-agency, multi-resource effort led by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additional regional cropland studies on the effects of conservation practices will be forthcoming over the next several months.

The complete UMRB cropland study report can be found at www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/nri/ceap.

Key partners in this study were USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Texas AgriLife Research, part of the Texas A&M University system.

The UMRB covers about 190,000 square miles-121.5 million acres-between north-central Minnesota and the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The basin includes large portions of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and small portions of Indiana, Michigan and South Dakota. Nearly half the basin is planted in corn and soybeans.

NRCS is celebrating 75 years helping people help the land in 2010. Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests. President Franklin Roosevelt created the Soil Conservation Service, now known as NRCS, on April 27, 1935 to help farmers and ranchers overcome the devastating effects of drought, especially in the Midwest and Northern Plains regions.

Generates $6 Billion in Savings: $4 Billion for Deficit Reduction, $2 Billion for Critical Farm Bill Programs While Improving Critical Farm Safety Net Program

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2010 - As part of the Administration's continuing efforts to reform the Federal crop insurance program, reduce the Federal deficit, and maximize taxpayer dollars, USDA today released the final draft of a new crop insurance agreement and announced that $6 billion in savings has been created through this action. Two thirds of this savings will go toward paying down the federal deficit, and the remaining third will support high priority risk management and conservation programs. By containing program costs, these changes will also ensure the sustainability of the crop insurance program for America's farmers and ranchers for years to come.

USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA), which administers the Federal crop insurance program, today released the final draft version of a new Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA), which details the new terms, roles, and responsibilities for both the USDA and insurance companies that participate in the Federal crop insurance program.

"The Federal crop insurance program is a critical component of the farm safety net, and now that our negotiations are complete, we have the framework for a stronger program that will help producers in every region of the country better manage their risk," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The President has laid out an aggressive plan for reducing the deficit and we're pleased to take a leadership role in that effort with today's announcement while strengthening key risk management and conservation programs that benefit America's farmers and ranchers."

The release of the final draft agreement follows two draft proposals and months of discussions with insurance companies and other stakeholders. USDA has worked aggressively through the negotiation process to preserve the crop insurance program as part of the farm safety net, support producer access to critical risk management tools, protect the interests of taxpayers, and ensure a reasonable return for the companies that deliver the program.

The final draft agreement will generally maintain the current Administrative and Operating (A&O) subsidy structure, but remove the possibility of windfall government payments based on high commodity price spikes by limiting the level of A&O payments that the industry can receive. However, an inflation factor and consideration for new business is included so that the maximum payment may reasonably increase over the length of the agreement.

Through this negotiation process, RMA has lowered the projected average long-term return for the companies to about 14.5 percent. To do this, RMA worked closely with the insurance companies to modify the terms under which RMA provides reinsurance. Meanwhile, RMA will increase the return in historically underserved states to provide additional financial incentives for companies to write business in these states. The agency also returned to individual state stop loss protection for the more risky business, thus providing greater reinsurance protection for companies.

Through USDA's work during this negotiation process, the Administration is also ensuring that $2 billion in savings from the new Standard Reinsurance Agreement will be used to strengthen successful, targeted risk management and conservation programs and that $4 billion will be used to reduce the national deficit. The $2 billion that will be invested in Farm Bill programs include releasing approved risk management products, such as the expansion of the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage program; providing a performance discount or refund, which will reduce the cost of crop insurance for certain producers; increasing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage to the maximum authorized level; investing in new and amended Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program initiatives; and investing in CRP monitoring.

The $4 billion in budget savings USDA achieved is one of the first and most significant steps that a federal agency has achieved in reducing mandatory spending from the long term federal deficit.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized RMA to renegotiate the agreement effective for the 2011 crop year. Due to significant increases in commodity prices in recent years, annual insurance industry payments more than doubled from $1.8 billion in 2006 to an estimated $3.8 billion in 2009 based on the terms of the previous SRA. Meanwhile, the number of total policies decreased from 2000 to 2009.

In preparation for these negotiations, RMA contracted with an internationally known company, Milliman Inc., to review historical rates of return and determine a reasonable rate of return for the crop insurance industry. The Milliman analysis shows that over the past 21 years, the crop insurance companies averaged a 17.0 percent return when the average reasonable rate for that period was 12.7 percent. See the full report and additional information about the new SRA online at http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/2009/12/sra.html.

Since the renegotiation process launched, USDA has focused on six primary objectives for this agreement, which have been maintained throughout the negotiation process:

1) Maintain producer access to critical risk management tools;

2) Align A&O subsidy paid to insurance companies closer to actual delivery costs;

3) Provide a reasonable rate of return to insurance companies;

4) Protect producers from higher costs while equalizing reinsurance performance across states to more effectively reach under-served producers, commodities, and areas;

5) Simplify provisions to make the SRA more understandable and transparent; and

6) Enhance program integrity.

These objectives align with RMA's primary mission to help producers manage the significant risks associated with agriculture. By achieving these six objectives, the new SRA ensures financial stability for the program and the producers it serves, while increasing the availability and effectiveness of the program for more producers and making the program more transparent. Following today's delivery of the final draft to the companies, RMA will work with the companies to correct any technical errors or unclear language.

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Initial Contributions to Leverage Additional Donor Support from Around the World, Public and Private Sectors

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010 - Today, a core group of finance ministers from the United States, Canada, Spain and South Korea, as well as the leadership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, met at the U.S. Department of the Treasury to announce an initial contribution of $880 million for a new fund to tackle global hunger and poverty and to discuss ways to foster additional contributions from the public and private sectors around the world.

The new fund, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, will include a U.S. commitment of $475 million, a key element of the Obama Administration's initiative to enhance food security in poor countries. As fellow inaugural fund contributors, Canada pledged $230 million, Spain $95 million, South Korea $50 million and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $30 million.

"As we work to build a stronger, more stable and balanced global economy, we must renew our commitment to tackle global hunger and poverty," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "A global economy where more than one billion people suffer from hunger is not a sustainable one. At a time of limited resources and large global challenges, this fund will leverage support from around the world to achieve lasting progress against hunger and bolster agricultural productivity and growth."

The fund was created in response to a call by G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh last year for the World Bank Group to work with interested donors to set up a multi-donor trust fund to help implement some of the $22 billion in pledges made by G-8 leaders at their meeting in L'Aquila.

The United States has already contributed $67 million to the fund and has requested $408 million in President Obama's FY 2011 budget, which is subject to Congressional appropriation. This investment is a key element of the Administration's initiative to enhance food security, raise rural incomes and promote stability in poor countries and will complement the bilateral food security activities of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"With the global number of chronically hungry reaching 1 billion, working together to put an end to the status quo and improve on past efforts is both a moral and economic imperative," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The financial commitments to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program announced today will help address this critical issue in a meaningful and comprehensive way."

With the aim of boosting agricultural assistance to poor countries, the fund will have both public and private sector accounts to provide financing to countries that have robust agriculture strategies. The public sector account will provide aid for better irrigation systems, linking farmers to markets and building post-harvest storage infrastructure. The private sector account will provide innovative financing to increase the commercial value of small and medium-sized agri-businesses and farmers.

"Investing in small farmers is an incredibly effective way to combat hunger and extreme poverty - history has proved it many times," said Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, which has committed $1.5 billion to date to agricultural development. "The launch of this fund is an important step forward, but only a first step. Other countries meeting at the European, G-8 and G-20 summits in June and at the U.N. Summit in September should join the four founding partners and make good on their pledges. If we all sustain focus until the job is done, hundreds of millions of people will lead better lives."

The fund aims to improve the income and food security of poor people in developing countries. It is estimated that the sudden increase in food prices in 2008 drove 100 million people into poverty. Even before the food price spikes, 850 million people in poor countries were chronically malnourished. Agriculture, seen as vital for development, has also been affected by low levels of investment over the past few decades and issues like climate change.

"At a time when practical and effective solutions are required, Canada is pleased to be among the first to help fund such a valuable program," said Jim Flaherty, Canada's Minister of Finance. "Our $230 million contribution builds on Canada's ongoing efforts to improve sustainable agriculture for the world's poorest. It also ensures international institutions have the resources they need to help countries tackle increasingly difficult challenges. None are as basic, as urgent or as unacceptable as global hunger."

"We have to maintain our degree of commitment with the poor," said Elena Salgado, Second Vice-President and Minister of Economy and Finance of Spain. "We cannot forget the 75 percent of the world's poor that live in rural areas. Sustaining food security requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses increasing agriculture productivity, fostering rural development and guaranteeing access to markets, especially for small farmers. Vulnerable populations would benefit from surpluses thus generated, through food safety nets."

"Korea experienced a severe food shortage and poverty at the initial stages of its economic development in the 1960s," said Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-Hyun. "The experiences made Korea recognize the importance of food security. In this regard, we will spare no effort in supporting developing countries' economic development and helping to strengthen their agriculture sector with empathy rather than sympathy, deep down in the heart."

Hosted by the World Bank Group, a number of agencies, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, will implement the projects financed by the fund. The fund will embrace a transparent governance structure by ensuring that recipient countries and civil society organizations, as well as donors, have a voice in the operation of the fund.

"Malnutrition and hunger afflicts millions of vulnerable people in Africa who cannot afford to grow and buy sufficient food," said Jean Ping, the Chairman of the African Union Commission. "Last year, the international community pledged resources to help the world's poorest farmers. The establishment of this fund is an important signal that donors intend to meet their commitments and help African countries implement their comprehensive agriculture strategies. We urge other countries to come forward and make good on their promises."

"With a sixth of the world's people going hungry every day, the crisis in food remains very real, posing a severe economic burden on developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa," said World Bank Group President, Robert B. Zoellick. "Co-operation and coordination are vital to boost agricultural productivity and connect farmers to markets, as agriculture is the main lifeline today for about 75 percent of the world's poor."

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