Related Rural Blog Posts

  • A Farm Bill Will Grow Our Economy While Protecting the Environment

    The White House Rural Council recently released a report on the economic importance of passing a comprehensive Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill. The report outlined the importance of the Farm Bill to our nation and the many ways that the legislation affects and benefits Americans every day.

    One of those ways is by supporting the ongoing conservation of America’s natural resources.

    Conservation is the foundation of a productive agriculture sector and a strong rural economy. By protecting our soil, water and wildlife habitat, farmers and ranchers are helping to ensure that our working lands are wild areas are productive for years to come. They’re also supporting outdoor recreation for millions of American sportsmen. From hunting and fishing, to camping and hiking, these outdoor activities add more than $640 billion to our economy every year.

  • Introducing the National Drought Resilience Partnership

    Today, the Obama Administration is excited to announce a new partnership between seven Federal agencies that will help communities better prepare for droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on families and businesses. The interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. Federal agencies are already working with communities, businesses and farmers and ranchers to build resilience to drought on the ground, and this Partnership will enhance those efforts.

    Droughts are not new to many communities.  Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts, storms, floods, and wildfires nationwide.  About two-thirds of the continental United States was affected by drought in 2012, impacting water supplies, tourism, transportation, energy and fisheries, costing the agricultural sector alone $30 billion and causing $1 billion in losses from wildfires.  During this disaster, the Administration provided all available assistance to towns, communities and agricultural producers impacted by drought, and the 2012 drought also highlighted effective planning and preparedness is to helping communities recover and prevent the worst impacts. We heard directly from states, tribes, businesses, and local communities that there was a need for a more accessible “front door” to make it easier to access Federal assistance. That is why the National Drought Resilience Partnership is designed to provide communities with a single point of contact to help them navigate various Federal programs to find the right one for their needs.

    Spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the immediate focus of the Partnership will be on creating a new, web-based portal to ease access to Federal agency drought resources, hosting more frequent regional drought outlook forums to continue to hear directly from communities, and supporting the coordination of a national soil moisture monitoring network to help improve monitoring and forecasting drought conditions. In collaboration with local, state and regional governments, the Partnership will also undertake a pilot project in a western area hard hit by drought to create a local-scale drought resilience plan that could be applied in other areas.  

    This Partnership reflects the work of the White House Rural Council, and it also follows the President’s November 2013 Executive Order on preparing our communities for the impacts of climate change.  That Executive Order created a Task Force of state, local and tribal leaders to advise the Administration on steps the Federal Government can take to help communities increase preparedness, and committed Federal agencies to examining their programs and policies to make it easier for states and communities to build resilience against storms, droughts and other weather extremes. 

    As we face increasing challenges from severe weather and climate impacts, it is more important than ever that Federal agencies work together effectively and efficiently to support the needs of local communities.  The interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership is another important step in our commitment to helping communities stay strong and resilient in the face of climate change. 

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality

  • The Affordable Care Act: Making a Difference in our Neighborhoods

    Community Health Centers enable people to receive health care in the neighborhoods where they live so they can get high-quality care close to home. That’s why the Affordable Care Act builds on this model of care, by making critical investments in new facilities, doctors, nurses, and staff. This week, HHS announced new primary care sites in 236 communities for 1.25 million additional patients, made possible by the Affordable Care Act. These investments will make an enormous difference in people’s lives by increasing access to the care they need, where they need it.

    As you can see from the media coverage in states around the country, these types of primary care investments are critical for families who need care. Here’s just a sample of the coverage:

    AZ – Arizona Daily Star: New U.S. grant to pay for Sierra Vista community health care A new community health clinic will be operating in Sierra Vista by February, due to an unexpected federal grant of nearly $1 million. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that $150 million in Affordable Care Act funds will be going to 236 health programs in 43 states. LINK

    CA – Grants awarded for health center The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday awarded a $691,667 grant to Community Medical Centers Inc. to help it establish a new health center service delivery site. LINK

  • Growing the Next Generation of Agricultural Innovators and Entrepreneurs

    Agriculture Prize 2013

    Break-out groups at the Agriculture Innovation Prize launch event on October 2, 2013, in Washington, DC, reviewed agricultural challenges and brainstormed options for engaging with student communities. (Photo by Tom Boyden)

    On October 2nd, the University of Wisconsin – Madison and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation announced the launch of a new prize that aims to inspire the next generation of agricultural innovators and entrepreneurs.  

    The “Agricultural Innovation Prize: Powered by 40 Chances,” is a student-led, student-focused competition established by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in collaboration with USDA and funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Open to any student at a US institution of higher education, it will award more than $200,000 in cash prizes annually to the best proposals and business ideas that address challenges in 21st century agriculture, such as food scarcity and availability, transportation, and sustainability.

    This is an especially timely prize for several reasons. First, with fewer and fewer Americans living or working on farms, agriculture’s visibility has diminished even as the importance of America’s agricultural economy is stronger than ever. This declining involvement with agriculture is undermining the Nation’s ability to attract and train the next generation of skilled, US agricultural practitioners. By connecting students with industry veterans, professional societies, non-profits, and government and policy experts, the Agricultural Innovation Prize will help teach today’s students how to be tomorrow’s agriculture innovators and entrepreneurs.

  • An Update on the White House Rural Council

    Ed. Note: This blog post was originally published by the Department of Agriculture

    Since the White House Rural Council was formed in 2009, our members from across the Federal government have taken a renewed look at many critical programs and services that impact rural residents, with an overarching goal to ensure that Federal agencies are collaborating to achieve the greatest possible benefit in rural America.

    Today, I hosted a meeting of the White House Rural Council where we continued our focus on shared efforts to better serve rural America – from conservation, to veterans’ services, to rural development, to support for American agriculture and more. 

    Today’s meeting included a special focus on expanding rural access to health care.  Rural Americans face unique barriers with regard to health care services, and new investments in medical facilities, expanded information technology and stronger veterans’ health care services can help meet these challenges.

    While we look forward to a number of announcements in the weeks and months to come that are intended to strengthen rural health care capacity, the Department of Health and Human Services made two key announcements today in partnership with the White House Rural Council.

    First, HHS announced that tomorrow, $4 million will be awarded through its Rural Health Information Technology Program to recruit, educate, train and retain health IT specialists in rural America. These awards will allow 15 organizations across the nation to train more healthcare workers in the specialized technology needed to better manage records and deliver remote services in rural America.  As these services are expanded, more folks in rural areas will see streamlined management of health care records. Service will be more efficient. And it will be easier for specialists to help provide remote consultations through innovative new technology.

  • Collaborating to Deliver Healthcare, Education, and Outreach to the Mississippi Delta

    Sergeant Alexander Benton, of the 7214th MSU Troop Medical Clinic Detachment

    Sergeant Alexander Benton, of the 7214th MSU Troop Medical Clinic Detachment out of Garden Grove, CA, draws blood from a patient for lab tests in Blytheville, AR. (Photo credit by Sgt. David Thomas, 7229 MSU JBLM out of Washington)

    For the fifth year in a row, the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), a White House Rural Council member, is partnering with the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide rural health care via the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program. Working in the Mississippi Delta Region, where today 20 percent of the population is uninsured, this summer’s missions are taking on a new role by educating communities about the new and affordable coverage options that the Affordable Care Act is making available beginning in 2014.

    Since 2009, IRT has brought military medical personnel in-training to underserved communities of the Delta region to provide free medical care to residents. DRA plays the vital role of guiding communities through the application, planning, and implementation processes. During the past four years, military reserve forces have provided general medical care, optical care, dental care, veterinary services, nutritional education, mental health care, and other support services to 24,000 Delta residents at ten sites across three states. And this summer, DRA and DOD are projected to reach an additional 20,000 patients in eleven communities across six states of the Delta – their most extensive outreach in the region to date.

    Take the Hope of Martin medical mission in Martin, TN, where troops from the Navy Reserves, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard provided free health care services valued at more than $700,000 to more than 3,250 residents of western Tennessee. Along with immediate care, DRA has partnered with another White House Rural Council member, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services, to help DRA as it educates and connect patients to new health insurance options that will help them access affordable coverage long after the IRT mission is complete.

    Another example is the Delta Medical Mission, which saw 5,771 patients and provided 10,000 resource cards at five sites over the month of July. And just this week, Army reservists were deployed to four communities in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee for the Four State Medical mission as well as to Ferriday, Louisiana, for the Louisiana Medical program. In just three days, this mission has seen 1,400 patients.

    Every patient served can mean a life changed. In Martin, TN, residents began lining up for services as early as 2 a.m. One man, so nervous to see a dentist that he was allowed to keep his dog in his lap, had tooth extractions that were years overdue. Another man was found in a hallway later in the day crying because, as he explained, with his new glasses – made on-site – “it was the first time he had been able to see the world.”

    The success of IRT is a testament to interagency collaboration facilitated by the work of the White House Rural Council and reaffirming President Obama’s commitment to rural America.

    Dr. Mary Wakefield is the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services. Chris Masingill is the Federal Co-Chairman for the Delta Regional Authority. Doug McKalip is the Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council.