WASHINGTON, February 18, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of community based organizations in 18 states to receive funding to promote economic growth. USDA Rural Development Rural Housing Administrator Tammy Trevino made the announcement on Vilsack's behalf while attending an event with Senator Blanche Lincoln at the Arkansas Studies Institute in Little Rock. The organizations will receive more than $6.5 million in total grants to support rural economic development efforts.

"These funds support USDA's partnership with rural America to bring increased economic opportunity to rural citizens and communities," Vilsack said. "They will serve as investments that will help organizations build the capacity and expertise of local nonprofit groups."

For example, in Little Rock, Ark., Winrock International was selected to receive a $251,706 grant to help local groups establish economic development projects, and deliver services including energy audits, teach sustainable business practices and management.

In Bozeman, Mont., Rural Community Innovations, d/b/a National Enterprise, was selected to receive a $251,706 grant to develop a program that provides technical assistance to two non-profit tribal entities and three federally recognized tribes.  Rural Community Innovations will help organizations develop community facilities and housing for low-income and elderly residents along with at-risk and homeless youth in rural communities.

Land-of-Sky Regional Council, in Asheville, N.C., was selected to receive a $50,700 grant to provide technical assistance to help local organizations deliver housing assistance services. Training and technical assistance efforts involve financial planning and management; strategic planning; personnel selection; and sustainability.

The funding announced today is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Rural Community Development Initiative Program which helps community based development organizations, federally recognized Indian tribes and other groups promote economic growth in low-income, rural communities. Recipients are required to obtain matching funds, increasing the value of the grants. The grants are awarded to public or nonprofit intermediary organizations. The funds are then provided to recipients, which must be located in eligible rural areas. Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. The grant awards announced today are not provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The list of the RCDI grant recipients includes the following:

  • Iowa League of RC &Ds: $251,706


  • Corporation for Supportive Housing: $200,000
  • Greater Minnesota Housing Fund: $251,706
  • Minnesota Home Ownership Center: $251,706
  • Initiative Foundation: $251,706

USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facilities programs.  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 $127 billion in loans and loan guarantees.


Back to Work Act will benefit small businesses that hire workers who have been unemployed for more than 60 days

Washington, DC - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) introduced legislation today that will spur small business job creation by creating a payroll tax cut for small business owners who hire previously unemployed workers. The Back to Work Act will exempt small businesses from paying the employer's share of the social security tax for the rest of 2010 if they hire workers who have been unemployed for more than 60 days prior to employment. The Back to Work Act is similar to bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

"It goes without saying that America's small businesses are the backbone of our economy," Braley said. "As we continue to develop policies to strengthen our economy and put America's middle class families back to work, small business development will be one of the keys to our success.  This payroll tax cut is win-win, giving small business owners the help they need to create good-paying jobs for unemployed workers."

The Back to Work Act provides small business owners with greater incentives to hire workers for long-term positions, providing additional tax incentives for businesses that retain employees for 52 consecutive weeks. The payroll tax cut provides greater incentive for employers to move quickly to hire new workers because the credit expires at the end of the year.  The sooner employees are hired, the more time small business owners have to benefit from the credit.

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February 17, 2010 (Des Moines, Iowa) Iowa basketball film, Winning Favor, is set to premiere in Holland Plaza's new Digital Theater on February 19, 2010 in Orange CIty, Iowa, and will run through March 4. The film will then play at Sioux City's Promenade Theater March 12 through March 19.

Winning Favor is a family film based on the true story of neighborhood friends growing up playing basketball at rival high schools in Orange City, Iowa. In 2005, the two high schools, the MOC-FV Dutch and the Unity Christian Knights, simultaneously produced two state boys' basketball championship teams in class 3A and 2A. The film also features basketball teams throughout Northwest Iowa, including Bishop Heelan, Boyden Hull and Sioux Center.
Winning Favor stars Matt Ashford from NBC's Days of Our Lives and was directed by Jamey Durham, director of the award winning film, The Prairie Pirates. The film's premiere coincides with Holland Plaza Theater's installation of a state of the art digital projection system.

The film was produced by Orange City, Iowa residents Anita Bomgaars and Donna Durham. The story was based on Bomgaars' memoirs of the 2005 winning season.

"I had never witnessed a group of young men who had such a positive impact on so many lives. This is a story that tugged at my heart, compelling me to share it with others," Bomgaars said .

The film's trailer can be viewed at, and show times can be seen at
For more information or to schedule interviews with the film's director and producers contact Anita Bomgaars at 712-441-2889 or Donna Durham at 712-737-7332.

State board votes 6-0 in favor of reclassifying marijuana for medical use and establishing a legislative task force to implement the change

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP assistant director of communications ............... 202-905-2030

DES MOINES, IOWA ? Today, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted 6-0 to recommend to state lawmakers that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule II drug and that a state task force be established to study how a medical marijuana law could be implemented in Iowa. Marijuana is currently classified on the federal level as a Schedule I drug, alongside much more harmful substances such as heroin and LSD, as having no proven medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule II drugs have accepted medical uses for treatment.

The recommendation comes after the board held four hearings last year to receive public input on the issue. Dozens of doctors, patients, researchers, and advocates testified before the board, and nearly all comments were supportive of medical marijuana. The Iowa House and Senate are each considering bills that would protect from arrest chronically ill patients who use marijuana to alleviate their conditions, though the bills missed the funnel deadline and will not be enacted this year.

"This vote sends a clear message to Iowa lawmakers that they should, as soon as possible, pass legislation that would give chronically ill patients who could benefit from medical marijuana safe and legal access to their medicine," said Noah Mamber, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who testified during the Board's hearings last year. "The recognition of marijuana as medicine in Iowa is a huge step. But for patients' lives to improve, the legislature must also provide protections from arrest, as 14 other states have already done."

"This is a great step forward for seriously ill Iowans who can benefit from medical marijuana," said state Sen. Tom Courtney (D-Burlington). "Several years ago, my wife passed away from cancer. Marinol pills gave her some relief, but it would have been so much better if she had had legal access to marijuana."

A Des Moines Register poll released yesterday found that 64% of Iowans support patients' use of medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Fourteen other states, including most recently New Jersey and Michigan, have passed medical marijuana laws, and nearly a dozen others, including Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, are considering such legislation. In Iowa, the legislature is considering S.F. 293, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bolkcom, and H.F. 2179, sponsored by Rep. Mary Mascher.

With more than 29,000 members and 124,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


Davenport, IA - On Thursday, February 18, downtown at the Redstone Room, thirteen local establishments will participate in the 2010 Martini Shake Off. The bartenders will compete for titles of the best traditional martini, best fruit martini, best dessert, best bartender's choice and the People's Choice award.

This year's Martini Shake Off will feature martini samples from Bass Street Chop House, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, Carriage Haus, Granite City, Icons, Johnny's Italian Steakhouse, Kilkenny's, McClellan Stockade, Nan's Piano Bar, Pints, Red Crow Grille, Steventon's and Woodfire Grill, while enjoying appetizers and the sounds of Ellis Kell, Andrew Landers, Matt Podschweit, Terry Hanson & Ron Wilson. There will also be the chance to bid on silent auction items as well as a 50/50 cash raffle.

Event proceeds will benefit the HAVlife Foundation, established four years ago in honor of Hunter Aaron Vondran, who passed away at the young age of 13 due to injuries sustained in a tragic accident. Hunter was an avid athlete and musician who had a passion for living life to the fullest. In his short 13 years, Hunter managed to inspire the people around him to do the same and left his message in their hearts when he passed. His parents, Michael and Brenda Vondran, along with his brother Baron, set up the HAVlife Foundation in order to do good things in Hunter's honor. The proceeds from the foundation stay in the local middle schools to prevent lost potential of today's youth by supporting music and athletic programs in our schools and throughout the Quad Cities community. HAVlife strives to honor Hunter's memory by supporting children and their pursuit of a full life, as Hunter would have wanted. During this year's event Davenport Community Schools and Rock Island Community School District superintendants will be presented with additional funding to support ongoing HAVlife Youth Enrichment Scholarships. Presentation to take place at 8:00pm.

The event will begin at 5:30pm and last until 9:00pm.

Tickets are $45 per person, or $75 for a couple.

For more information or to purchase tickets please call 563.355.2200 or contact us via email -

ROCK ISLAND, IL (02/17/2010)(readMedia)-- Four professors and nearly 40 Augustana students will leave in early March to spend 10 weeks studying in the West African countries of Ghana and Senegal. The two countries, both important regional and continental leaders, were chosen for the global learning experience because of their diverse culture, linguistic and topographical contrasts.

The term begins with six weeks in the country of Ghana, where the group will visit the capital city of Accra, as well as Kumasi and Cape Coast. The final four weeks will be in Dakar and St. Louis in Senegal. Classes will be held four days a week and cover the topics of African history, literature, music and art through reading, assignments, guest lectures and field trips. Students will also volunteer at a school and orphanage, spend a weekend with a host family and visit and attend classes at local universities.

From your area, this includes:

Kevin Carton, a senior from Moline, IL majoring in speech communication, French, and Africana studies.

Crystina Mayfield, a sophomore from Coal Valley, IL majoring in general studies.

Bret VanDeWoestyne, a senior from Silvis, IL majoring in biology.

History professor Dr. Todd Cleveland hopes students will embrace the African culture during the term. "I'd like to think that simple things like taking local transportation, sampling new food at an informal food stall...will ultimately offer more insight into local culture and day-to-day living than will our sensational experiences, such as sleeping out in tents in the desert or swimming in the warm waters off the West African coast," said Cleveland.

Junior biology major Amanda Van Daalen of Waverly, Iowa, agrees the experience is an opportunity for personal change. "I see myself too often taking advantage of things that some people could only dream of. I want to have my eyes open to a new culture and I want to live in a culture where simple things are valued."

Co-director Dr. John Tawiah-Boateng said students have been attending a seminar since fall to prepare for the term away. "I hope as they experience a different lifestyle and culture they will compare realities and stereotypes that they see in movies or television."

All four professors, Tawiah-Boateng, Cleveland, art professor Dr. Rowen Schussheim-Anderson and music professor Dr. John Pfautz will teach a class during the term. Tawiah-Boateng, a native of Ghana, and Schussheim-Anderson helped initiate the first Ghana international term at Augustana in 2006, and now serve as co-directors of this trip. Cleveland and Pfautz have also previously traveled or researched in Africa. The students and professors will return to the United States in mid-May.

Several of the students will keep a blog of their adventures on Augustana's Globablogs. To read more about their trip, go to

For additional information, contact Kamy Beattie, Director of Public Relations at or (309) 794-7721.

About Augustana: Founded in 1860 and situated on a 115-acre campus near the Mississippi River, Augustana College is a private, liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The college enrolls nearly 2,500 students from diverse geographic, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds and offers more than 60 majors and related areas of study. Augustana employs 226 faculty and has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Augustana continues to do what it has always done: challenge and prepare students for lives of leadership and service in our complex, ever-changing world.

Filing Period For Round Two of Broadband Applications Opens This Week

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of eleven Broadband Infrastructure projects to enable rural residents in nine states to have access to improved economic and educational opportunities. Funding for the projects is being provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago today.  Additionally, USDA and The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced that a second filing window for broadband applications opened this week.

"The broadband projects we're announcing today will create construction jobs now to build high speed Internet networks in unserved and under-served communities. Deployment of broadband will support job creation and rural economic development," Vilsack said. "The Obama Administration and USDA are bringing broadband to rural America so that Americans can compete in a global 21st Century economy.  We are opening new opportunities not only for homes and businesses, but for community institutions such as health facilities, libraries, public buildings and community centers."

In rural Kentucky, for example, the Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation (MRTCC) has been selected to receive a $39.8 million loan and a $38.3 million grant to deploy a fiber cable-based broadband network in the counties of Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott.  All four counties are considered "distressed" by the Appalachian Regional Commission, and are challenged by mountainous terrain and limited highway and rail infrastructure.  MRTCC will bring broadband access to these counties to enhance economic and educational opportunities for residents and employers.

In rural Minnesota, the Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group (SWMBG) has been selected to receive an almost $6.4 million loan and a $6.4 million grant to extend fiber to the Jackson, Lakefield, Windom, Round Lake, Bingham Lake, Brewster, Wilder, Heron Lake, and Okabena communities.  This funding, along with an $88,000 private investment, will provide high-speed Internet, voice, and cable television to the participating communities.  This will improve the quality of life by increasing the availability of health, education, and public safety services across the region.

In all, over $277 million will be invested in the 11 projects through funding made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  An additional $1.6 million in private investment will be provided in matching funds.  Congress provided USDA $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding to help bring broadband services to rural un-served and underserved communities.

Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the terms of the loan,   grant or loan/grant agreement. Below is a complete list of recent Recovery Act Broadband award recipients by state:


  • Smithville Telephone Company, Inc.: $37,729,143 loan.  The funding will provide 3,815 households, 209 businesses, and 12 community anchor institutions with access to broadband service.


  • Southeast Iowa Rural Wireless Broadband: $3,836,926 loan.  The funding will provide Internet services to 80 rural communities using proven wireless technology.


  • Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative Corporation (MRTCC) ILEC Broadband: $39,843,535 loan and $38,281,044 grant.  The funding will provide fiber to Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe, and Elliott counties that will result in 20 Mbps bandwidth to end users.


  • Allen's Cable - Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Broadband Network Extension: $3,584,680 loan and $3,513,697 grant.  The funding will extend fiber into rural areas of three South Louisiana Parishes.
  • LBH, LLC, - Rural Broadband Powered by Fiber: $16,693,439 loan and $16,691,939 grant.  The funding will expand existing broadband into rural areas around Moss Bluff, Oakdale, and Vinton.


  • Southwest Minnesota Broadband Group (SWMBG): $6,350,000 loan and $6,350,250 grant.  The funding will provide service to eight rural communities throughout Southwest Minnesota.


  • Unionville, Missouri FTTP Project: $5,140,458 loan and $5,140,458 grant.  The funding will provide broadband services to households, businesses, and key community organizations that are currently underserved in the Unionville area.

New Mexico

  • Western New Mexico Telephone Company, Broadband Infrastructure Project: $11,516,679 grant.  The funding will provide last mile broadband services to remote and unserved locations and critical community facilities throughout Western New Mexico.
  • Baca Valley Telephone Company, Inc.: $1,651,000 loan and $1,586,000 grant.  The funding will expand fiber optics to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) nodes in rural Northeastern New Mexico, replacing outdated deteriorating copper wire and low bandwidth microwave transport systems in some areas, while providing new connectivity in others, and enabling advanced, high-speed DSL service throughout the area.


  • Sandy Broadband Infrastructure Project: $374,548 loan and $374,537 grant.  The funding will provide broadband service to the underserved rural area of Sandy by improving and expanding wireless Internet service.


  • Southern Texas Broadband Infrastructure Development and Adoption Project: $40,093,153 loan and $38,520,868 grant.  The funding will develop a broadband infrastructure in eleven unserved and underserved rural communities of the South Texas Plains.

USDA is continuing to review broadband applications currently on file and expects to make additional announcements concerning awards throughout the current fiscal year.  Additionally, The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) on Tuesday began accepting applications for a second round of broadband grants.  Applications will be accepted until March 15, 2010 at 5 p.m. ET.

The application packages for electronic submissions is available at  Electronic submissions of applications will allow for the expeditious review of an Applicant's proposal, consistent with the goals of the Recovery Act. The government electronic application system will provide a date and time stamped confirmation number that will serve as proof of submission. The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Department of Commerce and to USDA to accelerate broadband deployment in areas of the country that have been without the high-speed infrastructure.

You may obtain additional information regarding applications via the Internet at

President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on Feb. 17, 2009.  It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century.  The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.

More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at More information about the Federal government's efforts on the Recovery Act is available at

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Food and Drug Administration for an update on the implementation of new guidelines for medical device makers on when they need to file new information with the agency and seek clearance for the marketing and use of modified devices under the 510(k) system, the agency's less stringent process for reviewing most medical devices.

Grassley said that his inquiry today follows up on questions he asked more than a year ago, after a ring used in heart-valve repair was being implanted in patients even though the device hadn't been cleared for this purpose by the FDA.  The FDA subsequently told Grassley that its current policy was inadequate and that an update was underway.  Grassley also asked a number of questions today about the FDA's requirements for manufacturers to report changes made to FDA-approved devices.

"My questions are aimed at establishing greater transparency and accountability for doctors and their patients," Grassley said.  "People have a right to know exactly what the FDA has approved, or not, in making decisions about their health care.  For this to happen, the FDA's policies need to be effective in establishing an accurate public record about the FDA-approval status of any particular product."

The text of the letter sent today from Grassley to the FDA Commissioner follows here.


February 16, 2010

The Honorable Margaret A. Hamburg


U.S. Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Ave.

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

The United States Senate Committee on Finance (Committee) has jurisdiction over, among other things, the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  As Ranking Member of the Committee, I have a responsibility to the more than 100 million Americans who receive health care coverage under these programs to oversee their proper administration and ensure that taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent on safe and effective drugs and devices.

I appreciate your response of September 30, 2009, to my questions regarding the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA or Agency) guidance to manufacturers on when a modification to a device requires the filing of a new 510(k).  Over a year ago, I wrote to the FDA regarding serious allegations that an annuloplasty ring used in heart valve repair was being implanted in patients even though the device was allegedly not cleared for marketing by the FDA.  The FDA concluded that the company had made the wrong decision when it marketed the product without first seeking clearance from the Agency.  That device, the Myxo dETlogix Annuloplasty Ring (dETlogix ring), has since been cleared by the FDA, but as I stated in my letter to the FDA last April, the fact remains that for more than two years, patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital were being implanted with the device before a 510(k) was submitted to the Agency.

I also wrote to Northwestern Memorial Healthcare and Northwestern University in September regarding the same allegations and asked them whether or not they obtain assurances or confirmation from a device manufacturer that a device is FDA-approved before it is used in their facilities. Attached are their responses for your consideration.  Northwestern Memorial Healthcare stated in its response that Edwards Lifesciences assured Dr. McCarthy that it was taking the steps necessary for FDA approval.  It also stated that, "the health care provider relies on the manufacturer to provide timely and accurate information regarding the regulatory status of the device."  However, in this case, the manufacturer followed FDA's guidance and made the wrong decision regarding its device.

In your September response, you stated that FDA believes its current policy on when a modification to a device requires a new 510(k) submission is not sufficiently clear and is revising the guidance document.  I agree that the guidance document needs to be revised so that we can prevent similar events from occurring in the future.  However, it has been more than four months since I received your response and the new guidance has yet to be released.  Accordingly, I would appreciate you advising me immediately on the status of FDA's revisions to the Agency's guidance entitled, "Deciding When to Submit a 510(k) for a Change to an Existing Device."

In addition, it is my understanding that device manufacturers registered with the FDA must also list the devices that they make with the Agency.  According to FDA's website, registration information must be submitted each year between October 1 and December 31 even if no changes have occurred, and at that time listing information should be reviewed as well.  The website also states that a manufacturer can access the FDA Unified Registration and Listing System at any time to update changes to their registration and listing information as the changes occur.  Examples provided by the FDA include a change to a previously listed device or the introduction of another device into commercial distribution.  In light of the statements made on FDA's website please respond to the following questions:

1)         Would a manufacturer be required to update its device listings even if it changed only the name of an existing device?

2)         Would the manufacturer also be required to update its listings if it made a modification to a device that did not require submission of a new 510(k) but marketed that device under a different name?

3)         If the answer to either question is no, please explain why not.  Please also explain how patients and their doctors would obtain information about the status of a device other than from the manufacturer itself.

4)         FDA concluded that Edwards Lifesciences' dETlogix ring did require a new 510(k).  However, even if a new 510(k) had not been required, was the company required to list that device with the FDA?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  I would appreciate a response to the requests set forth in this letter by no later than March 2, 2010.


Chuck Grassley

United States Senator

Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance

$100 Million for CREATE Program; Investment to Create 1,087 Jobs
CHICAGO- February 17, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn announced today that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) along with the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program partners has received a $100 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This federal investment is expected to create 1,087 jobs.
"Illinois has received the most TIGER funding in the Midwest. This investment will create 1,087 jobs and bring economic growth to our communities," said Governor Quinn. "With this grant and dedicated partnerships like CREATE, Illinois continues to work to ensure our rail industry is moving forward and our state remains one of the nation's major rail hubs."
Across the nation, 1,400 applications were submitted for TIGER Grant funding and 50 projects were awarded. Here in Illinois, three applications were awarded totaling $128 million. The funds include $100 million for CREATE, $6 million for Tri-City Port District in Granite City and $22 million for the Normal Multi-modal transportation facility.
"Throughout the country, we have huge bottlenecks that restrict the flow of freight and passengers at a cost to the United States of an estimated $200 billion a year," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). "The TIGER grant program is a coordinated, comprehensive effort to identify and fund nationally significant transportation projects that will improve safety, spur economic development, reduce congestion and create thousands of good paying jobs across the country. I thank Secretary LaHood and Governor Quinn for their leadership on this issue and commend local leaders throughout Illinois for their efforts."
"These federal funds will have a tremendous impact on Illinois' economy by creating more jobs," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. "This is another major step in the right direction to improve livability, sustainability and safety across the state."
The grant funding will be targeted to six projects benefiting 13 Illinois communities. The projects will range in scope from rail line and viaduct improvements to a highway-rail grade separation. The completion of these projects by 2012 will support an estimated 1,087 jobs.
CREATE is a first-of-its-kind partnership, bringing together IDOT, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads (AAR). It is comprised of 71 critically needed rail and highway infrastructure improvements in Northeastern Illinois, aimed at improving the quality of life of Illinois residents, and increasing the efficiency of freight and passenger rail service throughout the region.
For more information, log onto or
First Year Analysis Show Recovery Act's Successes
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2010 - Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). One year after the passage of ARRA, evidence is clear - and growing by the day - that the Recovery Act is working to cushion the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and lay a new foundation for economic growth.

"President Obama's Recovery Act has helped create jobs and lay a new foundation for economic growth during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  "USDA has used Recovery Act funding create badly-needed jobs and stimulate local economies, help farmers and rural businesses make it through tough times, ensure that struggling families can put food on the table, and build and revitalize critical infrastructure in rural communities across America."

Since the Recovery Act was signed into law a year ago, USDA has moved quickly to get dollars out the door.  Aside from funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is allocated on a mandatory basis each month, USDA has announced the vast majority of its remaining $7.9 billion to support more than 90,000 grants, loans, and other job-creating projects. In the first year implementing the Recovery Act, USDA has:

·         Provided over $100 billion in tax relief for American businesses and families, including tax cuts for 95 percent of working families through the Making Work Pay tax Credit.  And tax relief is expected to nearly double in the coming months.

  • Helped over 38 million Americans who need food assistance by providing an average increase in benefits of $80 per month to low-income households of four.  This funding is a fast-acting economic stimulus as every $1 in food benefits generates up to $1.84 in total economic activity, supporting jobs at all levels of the food chain.
  • Helped 85,420 rural Americans purchase or repair their homes with affordable loans while simultaneously stimulating the economy, and creating jobs in the construction and real estate sectors.
  • Helped create private sector jobs protecting rural communities from large wildfires, while improving the health of our forests, water and air resources.  We provided $500 million to treat over 134,000 acres of forest to reduce the risk of wildfire.
  • Provided 2,636 loans to farmers and ranchers help them purchase the farm equipment, feed, seed, and fuel they needed to keep their farms operating and support jobs in the rural economy.  Approximately half of these loans went to beginning farmers and 25% to socially disadvantaged farmers.
  • Created green jobs at plants that use of wood from forest restoration activities to generate renewable energy.  Grants worth $50 million went to projects that will power 223,000 homes.
  • Helped more than 5,000 schools purchase equipment to improve the safe and healthy meals they serve to children.

In the coming months, USDA will be implementing additional programs and projects as weather begins to thaw, and construction projects are expected to break ground across the country.  In 2010, USDA will continue to invest in projects to help get Americans and the economy back to work:

  • By bringing broadband internet to an estimated 1.2 million households, 230,000 businesses, and 7,800 anchor institutions like hospitals and schools across rural America, in one largest job generating efforts to date.  This $3.4 billion investment will give businesses access to global markets and spur rural economic development.
  • By helping 300 rural businesses grow, innovate and create jobs, providing $900 million on top of $570 million already at work helping 160 businesses across the country.
  • With the construction and improvement of hundreds of community facilities, such as police and fire stations, and libraries in rural America.  We will improve access to health care for 3 million rural residents, and educational services for 2.5 million residents. We will provide nearly $750 million on top of $470 million already announced for more than 850 projects.
  • By constructing and rebuilding water and waste water systems in more than 200 communities affecting 1 million rural Americans.  We will provide nearly $1 billion on top of more than $2 billion already announced for projects in 530 communities.