White House Rural Council Blog

  • Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

    Latta Groundbreaking

    State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

    -- President Obama, January 31, 2015

    The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.

    In small towns and rural communities, kids living in poverty often miss out on these opportunities. They are often isolated and have limited access to support services. School may be miles away, the health care clinic miles in the other direction and the nearest grocery store in yet another direction. Public transportation options are limited, and the family car may be in the shop. Rent might be hard to meet and college might seem to be only a dream.

    Our kids are the most important assets we have for building the future economy, and it is essential to make sure rural kids growing up in poverty can reach their full potential. Investing in rural children and their families is critical not just to the long-term success of our rural communities, but to our global competitiveness. Studies indicate that we spend an estimated $500 billion each year on expenses related to child poverty. Imagine if we could use even a fraction of that in smarter ways to serve our children.

    Since President Obama convened the White House Rural Council four years ago, we have made tremendous progress in creating new opportunities for rural businesses and communities to thrive and grow. As these opportunities expand, we now need to ensure that they are available to everyone. To that end, the White House Rural Council convened last week to explore how the Administration can better coordinate and target efforts so that rural families living in poverty have the best chance to climb into the middle class.

  • Local Food, Local Places: Bringing Expertise and Creative Thinking to Community Economic Development

    Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

    The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative.  

  • Promoting Rural Opportunity by Expanding Access to Broadband

    President Obama has made expanding broadband access a key priority throughout his Administration. He launched the ConnectED Initiative in June 2013, ensuring that 99% of our students will have high-speed broadband in their classrooms by 2017 and that broadband infrastructure will reach rural areas. The White House Rural Council has supported these efforts to expand access to affordable broadband networks to support community benefits such as education, health care, and job creation.

    Just this week, the White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA members are rural, independent, telecommunication companies from across America. NTCA advocates on behalf of these companies to ensure that they can drive innovation and deliver service throughout rural America. Our dialogue was focused on NTCA’s Smart Rural Community initiative, which recognizes a small selection of NTCA members who are exceptionally serving their communities by using their broadband systems to improve health care infrastructure, education, government services, among other needs.

    White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association

    The White House Rural Council hosts a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. (Photo courtesy of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association)

  • Women Are the Past, Present, and Future of American Agriculture

    Watch on YouTube

    From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors, and to feed the world.

    The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers. These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

    Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture. We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians, and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policymakers and standard bearers. Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

  • Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

    CLT apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden

    Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

    As part of the Obama administration's commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

    Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year.

  • Sentinel Landscapes: Where Conservation, Working Lands, and National Defense Interests Converge

    Last July, the Administration launched the Sentinel Landscapes partnership to accomplish three critical goals: preserve agricultural lands, assist with military readiness, and restore and protect wildlife habitat.

    In this unique collaboration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of the Interior work with state, local, and private partners to preserve and restore natural lands important to the nation’s defense mission. The basic premise is to preserve and restore habitat around the military base to ensure at-risk species can survive, while also improving military readiness by ensuring training activities can proceed unimpeded.

    Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), located in Washington state’s Puget Sound region, was the first designated Sentinel Landscape. Located about 10 miles southwest of Tacoma, Washington, JBLM is one of the premiere military installations on the West Coast, covering over 91,000 acres to support 43,000 soldiers and airmen for maneuver training and land-warrior system testing.  

    JBLM also boasts the largest and highest quality prairie habitat in the South Puget Sound region. Once covering more than 150,000 acres, this irreplaceable ecological asset now covers only 23,000 acres, with nearly 90 percent of it found on JBLM. This prairie landscape is a large part of the remaining habitat for several animal and plant species protected under the Endangered Species Act. As development moves closer, these species take refuge on the base, restricting certain military activities like maneuver training for Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. The Sentinel Landscapes partnership ensures that at-risk species can thrive in the habitat surrounding the base without threatening military readiness.