AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK BRINGS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S 'RURAL TOUR' TO IOWA
Agriculture Secretary Discusses Revitalizing and Rebuilding Rural America at Iowa State Fair
DES MOINES, Iowa, August 19, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited the Iowa State Fair and held a 'Rural Tour' community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, listen to local residents talk about how the federal government can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This event follows the launch of the Obama Administration's 'Rural Tour' in June.
"To overcome challenges and be successful in a new, 21st century economy, President Obama has asked that we reach out to people in rural communities across the country to listen, learn and facilitate problem-solving," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about Iowa's vision for its future and to collect ideas about how USDA can better serve these communities."
At today's rural community forum, Vilsack discussed how the USDA is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.??
Secretary Vilsack also highlighted the USDA's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in Iowa and across the country, including the following:
USDA's Rural Development has helped guarantee 681 loans worth over $61 million in the state of Iowa through the Single Family Housing Loan program. These loans help residents and producers to have access to the capital they need to keep rural communities strong.
USDA's Farm Service Agency is providing $13.88 million through 239 Direct Operating Farm Loans. These loans help farms purchase items such as livestock, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, farm chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced nearly $23.9 million for 42 floodplain easement projects and more than $2.23 million in funding for watershed operations.
USDA's Agricultural Research Service is providing $10.5 million in funding to assist with critical deferred maintenance projects at the National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in Ames, Iowa. NADC is the largest Federal animal disease research center in the United States working on major diseases of livestock and poultry. Research done here is solving major animal health and food safety problems faced by livestock producers and the public.
Through USDA's Rural Development, more than $4 million will be made available for 29 community facilities projects. Community Facility Grants will allow towns across Iowa to purchase critical emergency service vehicles and equipment, build Emergency Operations Centers and community centers.
Through USDA, the Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of over $166 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Iowa. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. The State of Iowa also received $1.33 million in State Administrative Funds.
* USDA is also helping low-income Iowa residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through nearly $1 million in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in Iowa also will benefit from over $823,000 through the National School Lunch Program.
USDA's Rural Development is providing approximately $1.2 million to the City of Elkader to help make improvements with its water treatment plant which was flooded in 2008.
USDA's Rural Development has issued 5 Rural Business and Enterprise Grants to the Maquoketa Industrial Development Assistance Service, Iowa Falls Area Development Corporation, Manson Economic Development Corporation, Central City Main Street, and the City of Tipton for a total of $442,000 to start or expand businesses in rural communities.
In June, President Obama announced that Secretary Vilsack will lead the Administration's Rural Tour to visit rural communities in states throughout the country. Secretary Vilsack is scheduled to lead Rural Tour events with a variety of other top administration officials over the coming weeks and months in Missouri, New Mexico, and Ohio. This is the fifteenth similar forum Secretary Vilsack has led since being sworn, and this event follows rural listening sessions held in Hamlet, N.C., Bethel, Alaska, St. John Parish, La., Blairs, Va., West Salem, Wis., Charlotte, Mich., Concord, N.H., Wattsburg, Pa., Danville, Ind., Geneseo, Ill., Harrodsburg, Ky., Ludowici, Ga., Portageville, Mo., and Brush, Colo.