White House Rural Council Blog

  • Dr. Alma Hobbs' Story: Promoting Prosperity on America's Farms

    Ed. Note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights African Americans from across the Administration whose work contributes to the President's goals for winning the future.

    From North Carolina to Washington, D. C., my career spans over thirty years with the Department of Agriculture. I grew up in Farmville, a small southern town in North Carolina, and attended a segregated elementary and high school. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and commitment to service. The foundation laid by my parents empowered me to succeed in earning three degrees. I earned a Doctorate and Masters of Science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Bachelor’s of Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. I have worked at the local, state and national levels. For me, it has been a long journey from the segregated south to the nation’s capital, but I am proud to serve in this historic Administration.

    My personal and professional goals have always been to positively impact the lives of people through education to ensure they are empowered to reach their full potential. Over my career, I often served as the first African-American or female in the positions I held. After the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act, I worked to integrate USDA county offices and took the first group of black 4-H youth to compete in a state completion. This was an exciting opportunity. Previously, 4-H competitions were segregated and did not recognize black 4-H groups. I later became the first African American to hold a senior executive position in USDA’s Extension Service. Agriculture is typically a male-dominated career, so it was significant when I was selected as the first woman to serve as an Extension Administrator at Tennessee State University. In that position, I provided support for research, education, and extension programs to increase the prosperity, security, and sustainability of America’s families, farms and ranches, business firms, and communities. The experience allowed me to become the first female Dean in Agriculture at Virginia State University. There, I was responsible for providing leadership for agriculture, human ecology, research, and cooperative extension.

    In my current position as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, I am leading efforts to transform the culture of USDA and carry out Secretary Vilsack’s vision to transform USDA into a model organization, positioned to meet the present and future needs of its employees and customers. During the State of the Union Address, the President laid out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world. Through education and outreach programs, we are reforming and transforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century. It is an honor to be a key player as we improve management and transparency and ensure equal access to departmental programs at USDA.

    Dr. Alma Hobbs is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Weekly Wrap Up: Rebuilding America's Infrastructure for the 21st Century

    A quick look at the week of February 7, 2011:

    President Obama Meets Workers in Michigan

    President Barack Obama greets the employees during a stop at Donkers candy store and restaurant in Marquette, Mich., February 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Quote: "America has always used the building of our infrastructure networks to take our economy forward and to build out American industry. The Wireless Initiative is going to bring that to the 21st Century. It's going to take it to the next level, because that's the American way."--Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explaining the National Wireless Initiative on the White Board.

    Advise the Advisor: Your direct line to senior staff at the White House kicks off with a new video with Senior Advisor David Plouffe.

    Open for Suggestions: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to hear from you. Check out the new ConsumerFinance.govshare your suggestions for the bureau and watch video responses.

    Out-Building: This week, the President puts forward plans to build up the nation's infrastructure, investing in things like high speed rail, and expanding broadband access so all of America's families will be equipped to win the future:

  • Fulfilling Our Promise in Indian Country

    Two years ago, President Barack Obama vowed that this administration would work with Native Americans to empower tribal governments, fulfill our trust responsibilities to tribal members and help tribal leaders build safer, stronger, healthier and more prosperous communities.

    Today we took a giant step toward fulfilling that promise with Congressional approval of five major settlements for Indian country that are nothing short of historic.

  • Engaging Rural Communities Through State Fairs Across the Country

    Over the past three months, senior leaders from the Administration have been visiting state fairs across the country to meet fair visitors and rural leaders and discuss some of the ways that the Obama Administration is working to support rural communities.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and CPSC Chair Inez Tenenbaum are only a handful of the leaders who traveled around the country to enjoy the sites of the state fairs, meet 4-H and FFA young leaders, and discuss the ways that their agencies are working to support the Administration’s vision for keeping rural America strong.     

    During these visits, we heard firsthand how the economic downturn has created challenges in rural America as well as how rural communities are responding to the downturn by leading the charge on a number of important national priorities, such as increasing the production of renewable energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating and expanding small businesses, and contributing talent and energy to national service.  Members of the Cabinet and other senior officials learned about the importance of agriculture education and supporting the development of the next generation of farmers and ranchers, talked about the Obama Administration’s commitment to making college more affordable and accessible for all students, and discussed the significant investments that are being made in rural communities thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

  • USDA Recovery Act Loan Guarantees Spur Job Growth and Business Development

    The estimated number of jobs created or saved through USDA Recovery Act investments in rural America continues to grow.  Today, I am in Ohio, where USDA has provided over $59.5 million in loan guarantees to help rural businesses grow, innovate and create jobs.  You can see economic activity everywhere.

    For example, consider Pride of the Hills Manufacturing, Inc., a company that supports the natural gas industry.  Pride of the Hills was awarded $1,940,000 in financing through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), directed through USDA Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. The company will use the money to modernize equipment, improve operational efficiency and add 49 new jobs.

  • Boosting Advanced Biofuel Production and Creating Jobs

    Our country needs a strong, vibrant rural economy.  Advanced biofuel production will help create it. Not only will biofuel production from non-food sources create new jobs and new streams of farm income, it will improve environmental quality and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel imported from foreign countries.    

    Speaking to the members of the National Press Club here in Washington yesterday morning,  I explained that the heart of President Obama’s vision for rural America combines new technologies and new markets with better use of our natural resources-more home grown biofuels and renewable energy.