Related Rural Blog Posts

  • Key Federal Agencies Collaborate to Provide Funding and Support for Rural America

    On Tuesday, June 12, three federal agencies announced a new project to assist high-need rural areas facing chronic poverty along the U.S.-Mexico border. This new project is part of a series of initiatives delivered through the White House Rural Council, which recently released a report detailing the steps President Obama and this administration have taken to support rural America.

    The Border Community Capital Initiative (“Border Initiative”) is a collaborative effort among the Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RA), Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These three federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and, together, will increase economic development activity at a community level throughout these high need areas, known as colonias.

    Colonias are communities within 150 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. These high-need communities frequently lack fundamental resources such as sanitary housing, access to potable water, and adequate sewage systems. Under the Border Initiative, up to $200,000 will be made available to nonprofit and tribal financial institutions serving colonias. These funds will be used for direct investment and technical assistance focused on providing access to valuable resources that these communities lack.

    Previous federal programs with similar goals have faced significant barriers in implementation, such as limited capacity among organizations serving colonias and a lack of stable funding available to them. The Border Initiative is tailored to correct for this by directing funds toward improving the capacity of local financial institutions to raise capital and increase lending; and boosting investment in their communities.

  • Connecting Educators, Building Communities Across Rural America

    Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the ED Blog  

    In an increasingly interconnected world, we can no longer allow geography to be a barrier to education and opportunity in rural America.

    Through the national broadband plan and unprecedented investments in education reform, the Obama administration is leveraging the power of technology to overcome distance and increase collaboration to accelerate student achievement in rural schools.

    Today, the White House Rural Council announced the U.S. Department of Education's new online community of practice group for rural schools. Virtual communities of practice provide a platform for educators to connect to resources, tools, colleagues, experts, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools.

  • White House Rural Council Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary

    President Obama Town Hall Meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa

    President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, on the first day of a three-day bus tour in the Midwest, Aug. 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama talked to local TV reporters from communities around the country with significant rural populations. These interviews come as the White House released a report noting progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and detailing the steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs in rural America. The report was developed by the White House Rural Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, the President announced new investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire.

    One year ago today, President Obama established the White House Rural Council in order to better coordinate federal programs and maximize the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. It truly is exciting that in just one year, more than a dozen new policy initiatives have been launched to assist rural America. One of those initiatives was a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, at no cost to tax payers. Today the President announced that more than $400 million has already been invested this fiscal year in these businesses through the SBIC program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested by the end of fiscal year 2016.

     

  • Innovative Financing: Creating Access and Opportunity For Small Business In America's Rural Economy

    Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the SBA Blog

    This week marks the one-year anniversary of the creation of the White House Rural Council, an Administration-wide initiative to support and strengthen America’s rural economy. And our progress over the last year is detailed in a new report released today. 

    As part of our efforts, we are making sure that more entrepreneurs who live in rural areas have the access and opportunity they need to start, build and grow their businesses.

    We know innovation and entrepreneurship doesn’t just take place in New York and Silicon Valley. It’s happening in West Virginia, all along the I-79 High Tech Corridor, where I was last month. It’s happening in Iowa and Georgia and Nebraska.

    And if we want to continue to grow our economy—and be more globally competitive—we need to make sure that we can harness the potential of entrepreneurs and small businesses in all of these communities.

    To make that possible, the Small Businesses Administration is working to increase the flow of capital to rural areas. In fact, SBA has helped put more than $400 million in investment capital directly into the hands of high growth rural businesses through our agency’s Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) since last October.

  • A Clear Answer to Clean Water

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

    How important is water? Well, it’s not a question I have to think too hard about. What I can tell you is that without it, there wouldn’t be any humans or critters roaming the earth.

    In the U.S., we use a little more than 400 billion gallons of water a day. According to the UN, in the worldwide picture about one in five people lack access to a clean, improved water source.

    At USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) we view clean water as a top priority. Every day, our employees work with farmers and ranchers to improve on-farm water management—using a systems approach to avoid, control and trap pollutants.

     
    Field View

    A pasture on Gary Price's 20,000 acre "77 Ranch" which is located within a watershed that provides drinking water for over 40 percent of Texas' population.

    The type of pollutants we are working to control, through our conservation actions or “practices” are farm waste, fertilizer, sediments, pesticides and herbicides. Our goal is to stop these at or before the edge of a field, so they don’t run into the water. And that’s why we recently created the National Water Quality Initiative.

    Through this effort we are focusing on priority watersheds in every state, where on-farm conservation investments have the best chance to improve water quality. To do this, we took an in-depth look at the impaired waterways list and then we asked for input from our local and state partners to pick the watersheds that were ultimately selected as a focal area.

    We launched the National Water Quality Initiative with $33 million dedicated for farmers and ranchers, with financial assistance for any size agriculture operation to help reduce the loss of excess nutrients and sediments from their fields. We expect to show how the actions of farmers and ranchers can remove a stream from the impaired list.

    When large numbers of farmers take action together in one area, in one watershed, it can make a difference—it can stop an algae bloom or keep bacteria from reaching a drinking water source. And clean water is absolutely critical for the freshwater ecosystems that 44,000 aquatic species call home.

    In Texas, ranchers Gary and Sue Price have been working with NRCS and the Navarro Soil and Water Conservation District for over 35 years to implement conservation practices on their ranch which lies in the Trinity River Basin—an area that provides water for over 40 percent of Texans.

    Gary Speaking

    Gary, right, and Sue Price have been implementing conservation practices for more than 35 years they on their "77 Ranch" and they have submitted an application for the new national water quality initiative.

    The Prices began addressing water quality several years ago when they converted a portion of their cropland to a wetland. Wetlands are the clean water sponges, or kidneys, of the land. They minimize soil erosion and are excellent wildlife habitat. The couple also installed a riparian buffer with native plants. This buffer acts as a filter while creating habitat for both bobwhite quail and Rio Grande turkey.

    If you are a farmer, rancher or forest landowner interested in signing up, you can check a map online and see if you are located in a priority area. If you prefer the in-person route, we have USDA service centers in almost every county, and you are always welcome to stop in and complete an application. Applications must be submitted by June 15, 2012 in order to be considered for this fiscal year’s funding opportunity.

    Since the White House Rural Council was established last June, the Council has provided a forum for increasing conservation work and creating jobs in rural America. Through the National Water Quality Initiative, we will have measurable progress achieved with support from the Rural Council.

    Follow NRCS on Twitter.

    Dave White is Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

  • White House Rural Council: Rural Stakeholders Meeting

    On Tuesday, May 1st, the White House Rural Council, along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, hosted a group of 24 rural health care providers and experts to discuss issues around access to care and improving health outcomes in rural communities.

    Rural physicians, nurses, mental hospital administrators, and rural health associations from across the country gathered to discuss a range of rural health issues--from the need to expand broadband to support telehealth services in California, to ways to improve health outcomes by focusing on nutrition and healthy living choices in Ohio.

    During the meeting, Secretary Sebelius, announced $10.4 million in funding for 70 Rural Health Outreach Grants.  These grants will address the needs of a wide range of population groups; including low-income families and individuals, the elderly, pregnant women, children, minorities and individuals with special health care needs.

    Both Sebelius and Vilsack remarked that in their experience as Governors, they learned firsthand how important health care is for a vibrant rural community. They both agree that without access to quality, affordable, health care rural communities cannot compete for growth and economic development.  

    A recent RAND study that shows that 5.5 million rural Americans will now have access to health coverage because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, 394,000 young adults in rural areas have gained coverage thanks to being able to stay on their parent’s insurance plan. Click here for more information on how this law is making a difference in the lives of millions of people like you.

    Health care has long been a key focus area for the White House Rural Council. In August, the Administration announced a number of policy initiatives including expanding the National Health Service Corps to Critical Access Hospitals and improving access to capital for helping hospitals and clinics leverage emerging health information technology such as electronic health records. This session served as an excellent forum to discuss important opportunities and challenges and to initiative further solutions that can help rural Americans receive the best health care possible. Stay tuned for more updates on Rural Council events and announcements.