Related Rural Blog Posts

  • Supporting Military Readiness and Training through Environmental Conservation

    Last week, the Obama Administration announced a new federal, local, and private sector collaboration that will preserve agricultural lands and restore and protect wildlife habitat, all while helping to sustain military readiness. 

    Known as the “Sentinel Landscapes” partnership, the effort is kicking off with a pilot at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an important training facility for our troops in the South Puget Sound region of Washington State, and home to some of the last remaining native prairie habitat for wildlife in the state. 

    This unique convergence of landscapes comes with unique challenges. Namely, as development comes closer and closer to the base, at-risk species in the area take refuge in the only land that can’t be developed, the military base itself. The presence of these species can then bring restrictions to the base’s ability to engage in certain training activities.

    In a unique collaboration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Department of Defense will work together and with private landowners and state and local partners, including the non-profit Center for Natural Lands Management, to preserve and restore habitat around the base to ensure at-risk species can survive, while also improving military readiness by ensuring training activities can proceed unimpeded.

  • Building Community Leaders for Regional Success

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Delta Regional Authority.

    Strong leaders are integral to the success of Rural America, binding together neighbors, sustaining the deeply rooted culture, and searching for ways to keep the community moving forward. To ensure a future generation of Delta leaders, the Delta Regional Authority, a member of the White House Rural Council, began the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

    Founded in 2005, the first Executive Academy class convened 22 people from the eight states of the Delta region to learn about the most pressing economic and social issues facing Rural America and collaborate to find common solutions to address these problems. Through leadership development sessions, communication trainings, case studies of successful models of change, and exposure to fellow community members and other parts of the region, the Executive Academy has created a corps of community leaders who have a vision for the Delta as a regional unit. The Academy is a network that shares successes, opportunities, and failures across state lines, and a group of leaders who have the tools to bring economic advancement and social change to their rural communities.

    Over six sessions taking place in five cities around the region and in Washington, DC, participants discuss challenges in access to affordable health care and education, recruitment of business investment, retention of human capital, maintenance of necessary public infrastructure, and cultivation of entrepreneurial environments. Most importantly, though, these sessions provide participants with the opportunity to collaborate on crafting solutions for our region.

  • White House Rural Council Growing Rural Economies, Creating Jobs

    This week is National Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), along with agencies across the Obama Administration, are hosting events in five cities. These events provide expert advice, mentoring and explore topics ranging from access to capital to exporting. Small businesses across the country can tune into these events via livestream at sba.gov.

    America’s small businesses create two out of three net new private sector jobs in our economy. And today more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. Our goal is to ensure that the positive economic benefits of entrepreneurship can reach every corner of the country.

    That’s why today the White House Rural Council is announcing new commitments to increase access to capital and to provide additional training and counseling services to rural small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    For Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have committed to support a combined $175 million in microloans to small businesses in rural areas, in addition to new business training and counseling opportunities. To date, in FY13, we have already supported nearly $85 million to rural small businesses. Since 2009, USDA and SBA have provided over 19,000 loans and grants, helping more than 60,000 rural small businesses through programs like USDA-Rural Development's Intermediary Relending Program and SBA's Microloan Program.

  • Full Speed Ahead for Open Ag Data

    This article is cross-posted on the USDA blog

    G8_OpenAgData_2013

    Participants in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, including US Chief Technology Todd Park, listen to opening remarks by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013. (USDA photo by Bob Nichols)

    Last week, hundreds of innovators gathered at the World Bank IFC Center to brainstorm about how Open Data can be harnessed to help meet the challenge of sustainably feeding nine billion people by 2050.  The group included delegates from the G-8 group of nations, US Government officials, private sector partners, Open Data advocates, technology experts, and nonprofit leaders – all participants in the first-of-its-kind G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture. 

    The foundation for such collaboration was set by President Obama’s first ever global development policy which emphasizes broad-based economic growth, innovation, and partnership; and the President’s leadership on food security through the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative and Feed the Future.  Then, at the 2012 G-8 Camp David Summit, the G-8 nations, African partners, the private sector and civil society launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and committed to host a conference focused on sharing relevant data to help advance agriculture and ensure food security for people around the world. At the end of the year, the White House hosted a Global Development Data Jam—the first high-level U.S. Government event to feature the potential of Open Data to address global challenges.

    Last week’s G-8 “Open Ag Data” conference hosted by the USDA, built on this important groundwork by focusing on ways to ensure that Open Data about agriculture are not only available, but also put to good use. It also highlighted some excellent work that’s already underway and making positive change in the Open Ag Data arena, including: 

  • USDA Drought Code Sprint: Giving Americans One-Click Access to Federal Drought Relief

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the United States Department of Agriculture Blog.  Please note the deadline for submission has been extended to October 24.

    Americans across the country are feeling the impact of the most severe and extensive drought in the last 25 years. We’ve heard from people throughout the United States, asking how they can help. That’s why today we’re launching USDA’s first-ever Drought Code Sprint, a call to developers across the country to use publicly available government information to help farmers, ranchers, and others gain quick and reliable “one-click” access to information on drought conditions and Federal drought relief. Developers can submit their apps using this form by October 24. Some of the most innovative ones will be featured on USDA.gov.

    Crops are withering as a result of this historic drought and feed for livestock is growing ever more scarce and expensive. None of us is immune—these conditions are affecting over 50% of the country and almost 80% of our agricultural land. But our rural communities and family farmers and ranchers are on the front lines, and have been the first to feel the drought’s full effects. They are working hard to overcome these hardships, and the Federal Government has stepped up to help.

    Of course, apps can’t influence the weather or refill our reservoirs. But they can help farmers and ranchers become more easily aware of the kinds of assistance available to them, and they can simplify the process of taking advantage of these options so relief gets to the people who need it as efficiently as possible.

    Some tools we’d love to see include apps that provide “one-click” access to the nearest USDA service centers and available drought programs; county-level drought disaster designations and program eligibility; information on Federal assistance available based on location and sector; types of loans or refinance options available with a handy repayment calculator and eligibility requirements; drought maps; and localized weather outlooks. These are just a few of our ideas but we’re confident that you have even better ones—so get coding!

    To get started, check out these publicly available data sets in the Natural Hazards Data Community on Safety.Data.gov and on the USDA drought website:

    We encourage developers to use other freely available resources on safety.data.gov or the USDA website as well—including Agriculture Weather and Drought Outlook blog posts and Drought Assistance Programs and Information sites—and any other data resources that would be helpful to those affected by the drought.

    Here is a great opportunity to apply American ingenuity and technology to the cause of helping America’s farms. We look forward to seeing your ideas.

     Amanda Eamich is Director of Web Communications at the United States Department of Agriculture

    Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • Grand Opening of Dillon’s New Middle School

    On Thursday, September 6, 2012, I had the honor of celebrating the beginning of a new era in Dillon County, South Carolina as Dillon opened its newest middle school.

    Three and a half years ago, Dillon’s school system was spotlighted when Ty’Sheoma Bethea wrote a letter to President Obama. Ty’Sheoma’s letter inspired the President and his Administration to help rebuild her school, and her letter reminded all Americans of what we can accomplish by working collectively toward common goals.

    In 2010, this Administration awarded a $35.8 million loan and a $4 million grant to the Dillon County School Facilities Corporation to finance new construction and renovations for four schools in three districts in South Carolina. These United States Department of Agriculture funds were made possible by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which has assisted communities like Dillon across America prepare for and invest in the future.

    Dillon Middle School Ribbon Cutting

    Dillon Middle School Ribbon Cutting (Photo from USDA)

    The new middle school replaces J.V. Martin Junior High School and is Dillon’s first new school in about 40 years. Ms. Bethea’s letter spoke to the President’s belief that a strong country only exists when we equip our children with a quality education, so they are prepared to win the future.