USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack held the Obama Administration's National Summit of Rural America with agricultural leaders, farmers, ranchers, community leaders, and rural residents who shared their vision and ideas to rebuild and revitalize rural America. As the day began at Jefferson College, Vilsack discussed many of the challenges and opportunities facing rural communities throughout the country and he encouraged participants to think boldly about the future.
"A strong American economy depends on a prosperous rural America," said Vilsack. "The Obama administration is committed to ensuring that America's rural communities are vibrant and thriving economically and last year made an unprecedented commitment to this revitalization with the Recovery Act. We continue looking to time-tested programs, as well as new approaches, to maintain a strong farm safety net for America's producers, which includes good-paying jobs, and to build a stronger rural economy for the 21st century so that rural communities remain great places to live, work, and raise a family."
Vilsack continued to outline the framework for building a strong, revitalized rural economy for the 21st century, which includes:
• Creating new opportunities for prosperity with investments into broadband access and by promoting renewable energy production;
• Creating green jobs through recreation and natural resource restoration and conservation;
• Strengthening farm income by increasing agricultural exports, investing in research, connecting local producers with local consumers in both domestic and foreign markets, and helping farmers capitalize on new income opportunities from ecosystems market;
• Helping the next generation of rural Americans prepare for a brighter future by investing in teachers and supporting rural community colleges to create an educated workforce;
• Updating rural infrastructure and improve rural health care to create jobs and ensure a quality-of-life attracts Americans looking for a good home for their family.
Vilsack also detailed the Obama Administration's commitment to job creation in rural communities and made several announcements to support rural businesses and cooperatives.
• A new Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and the Small Business Administration to outline a collaborative approach to supporting small businesses in rural America.
• USDA is seeking applications to support rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises, which will provide $45.1 million to encourage lending to start up business ventures. Funding is available from the Rural Development Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program.
• USDA announced $22.5 million for recipients in 45 states and Puerto Rico to receive business development assistance and pursue marketing opportunities for agricultural commodities through USDA Rural Development assistance under the Value-Added Producer Grant program;
• USDA announced $6.7 million grant and loan funding to recipients in 10 states that will promote job creation through USDA Rural Development's Intermediary Relending Program and the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.
This National Summit culminates the Rural Tour Secretary Vilsack led last year to 22 states where he and other members of the Obama Administration began a conversation with farmers, ranchers, and people who live in rural communities. And last week, Vilsack joined President Obama as he visited rural communities in America's heartland on the White House to Main Street tour and continued to hear stories and ideas for rebuilding our economy in the long term.