On the 100th day of the Obama administration, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack reflected on the new course USDA has set to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, to ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change and to revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.
USDA last week released a progress report on its actions during the first 100 days and also launched a new Web tool to allow Americans to learn where and how USDA is spending funds provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
"In the first 100 days of this new administration, USDA has moved quickly to respond to these difficult economic times by creating jobs, increasing food aid to those in need and revitalizing rural communities," Vilsack said. "Over the next 100 days and beyond, we will continue our hard work to ensure that as an every day, every way department, USDA helps our nation fight climate change, provides a nutritious diet for all Americans and maintains a strong safety net for America's farmers and ranchers."
The new geospatial-mapping Web function shows exactly where and how USDA is spending every dollar of Recovery Act funding across the nation. USDA has entered a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so that HUD projects funded by the Recovery Act will also be featured on the geospatial map. By launching this Web site and publishing a progress report at www.USDA.gov, USDA is working to deliver a government that is open and transparent, responsive and accountable to the American people.
Throughout the country USDA has taken swift action to implement the Farm Bill and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. These actions have resulted in bold new projects and initiatives that will spur rural economic activity and contribute to the nation's overall financial health. Since January:
- USDA has distributed all of the nearly $170 million in Recovery Act funding for direct farm operating loans. The funds went to 2,521 producers in 47 states and nearly 20 percent are going to socially disadvantaged producers.
- USDA has worked with state partners to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by $80 each month for a family of four. Over the next two years, this benefit increase will create or save 100,000 jobs.
- USDA announced $84.8 million in Recovery Act funding to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities. USDA also announced more than $600 million in funding to provide safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment systems for rural towns in 34 states. These efforts will create jobs and revitalize rural communities.
- To make America a leader in the fight against climate change, secretary Vilsack has worked in collaboration with the Department of Energy to make $25 million available for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products.
- To ensure better health for America's children, USDA has updated the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program to begin distributing new food packages, which for the first time include fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and reduced-fat dairy options.
- USDA says it has worked to deliver a government that is open and transparent, responsive and accountable. In the first 100 days, USDA has cut waste and avoided unnecessary costs, saving the American taxpayer tens of millions of dollars by finding efficiencies in programs and administrative processes.
- Secretary Vilsack has also made civil rights a top priority, taking definitive action to improve the department's record and to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider. Last week, he announced a temporary suspension of all foreclosures within the Farm Service Agency's farm loan program for 90 days to provide the opportunity to review the loan-granting process for possible discriminatory conduct. Vilsack has also ordered an external analysis of program delivery in USDA's field offices to get specific recommendations as to how we can provide services equitably.
Source: USDA news release