Saying the "entrepreneurial spirit is strong in rural America," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is terming USDA's "Made in Rural America" program not only a success but a viable asset in developing jobs and infrastructure across the back roads of the nation.
The comments came last week after USDA released a new State-by-State "Made in Rural America" report outlining a summary of the benefits the program has brought to farmers, ranchers and rural communities coast-to-coast over the last year.
"USDA has created employment opportunities in rural America through investments in manufacturing, energy and small businesses. At the same time, we are bringing reliable services like water, housing and broadband to make these same communities attract and retain a talented workforce," Vilsack said in a statement following the report's release.
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Vilsack says the report reflects USDA's efforts to strengthen what he termed the four pillars of a new economy in rural America. He said the program is about "developing a robust bio-based economy; promoting exports and production agriculture fueled by increased productivity and research; encouraging conservation including land management, stewardship and outdoor recreational opportunities; and building a strong local and regional food system to harness entrepreneurial innovation and help small and medium-sized family farms succeed."
Broken down by benefits provided to each state over the last year, the report illustrates the types of programs funded. Since 2009, the U.S Department of Agriculture, funded by a White House initiative, has made targeted investments to help rural businesses grow. USDA has been making investments in diverse areas including affordable housing, energy efficiency, roads and bridges, and internet access, as well as loans and grants for rural businesses.
Vilsack says the report represents a state factsheet, a snapshot of specific USDA investments in rural businesses, manufacturing, energy, water and other infrastructure development. Each state report outlines how USDA is building strong rural communities "that are attractive places for businesses and families to locate by investing in housing and broadband."
In the Southwest, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas benefited directly from the "Made in Rural America" program. It has helped attract and retain a talented rural labor force, improve connectivity and access to information, move products to market, and make rural communities competitive—ultimately supporting strong local economies and expanded opportunity.
According to the new State-by-State reports released last week, in 2012, exports of farm and ranch products alone contributed $884 million to New Mexico’s economy, $1.8
billion to Oklahoma’s economy, and $6.4 billion to the Texas’ economy.
Also, USDA has helped 3,019 New Mexico families purchase or repair homes. In Oklahoma 18,461 families purchased or repaired homes with USDA assistance, and in Texas 47,742 families purchased or repaired homes.
In addition, USDA has made investments to help 116 rural businesses in New Mexico thrive and grow, while in Oklahoma 158 rural businesses benefited from the "Made in Rural America" program. A total of 256 rural businesses in Texas benefited from the program.
In terms of better connectivity for rural areas, broadband service helped to expand access to state-of-the-art health care, educational, and cultural resources and helped rural businesses compete in the global economy. USDA invested $189.1 million to support new and improved broadband service for rural New Mexicans, $189 million to support new and improved broadband service in rural Oklahoma, and $279.8 million to support new and improved broadband service for rural Texans.
USDA invested $395.8 million to support efficient water supply, treatment and storage facilities, and wastewater treatment systems in Texas; $203.6 million in Oklahoma and $166.6 million in New Mexico.
You can connect to the complete State-by-State Report.