As America recovers from the recession, President Barak Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack understand that folks in our small towns and rural communities are helping lead the way.
But the fact is, people in rural America also face a number of unique challenges.
Many still don’t have access to modern broadband Internet, and in too many cases our rural towns rely on aging infrastructure to provide vital utilities.
All of us in the Obama Administration share the President’s sentiment in giving all Americans a fair shot, including those in rural America, where our values as a nation and our “can-do” spirit as a people are deeply rooted.
On our watch, USDA has made record investments that strengthen the rural economy, strengthen rural communities, and maximize opportunity for folks who call rural America home.
For example, since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service for nearly seven million rural Americans and more than 360,000 rural businesses. In New Mexico USDA Rural Development provided $200 million in funding for various telecom and broadband projects reaching almost every rural community in the state. When these broadband projects are announced, they spur businesses to invest in communities and help drive job growth. They also create additional jobs as they are being built, and even more jobs when the networks become operational and are available to New Mexico rural communities and businesses—many of which will receive access to high-speed Internet services for the first time.
During the past three and one-half years, USDA also contributed to the overall revitalization of rural American infrastructure. The Obama Administration invested in more than 6,250 community facilities – such as libraries, clinics, police and fire stations – that serve nearly 29 million rural Americans.
Through distance-learning and telemedicine programs in more than 5,700 schools and medical facilities, the Administration has improved the availability of healthcare and educational opportunities for rural families.
With President Obama’s leadership, the USDA has helped modernize rural electric systems for more than 25 million Americans with funding for more than 90,000 miles of new or upgraded electric line. And we’ve invested in more than 5,500 water and wastewater treatment projects, to help safeguard the health of 20 million rural residents.
These investments are having a major affect on the rural residents of New Mexico. For example, eight chapters in the Southeast section of the Navajo Nation received $8 million in funding from USDA Rural Development for the construction of a $28.6 million project to provide drinking water to residents in the area.
As a result, more than 10,000 New Mexico residents will-- for the first time-- receive water service after decades of hauling water by truck, horse and on foot.
These stories are playing out across the country – so while we all recognize America is in a time that requires fiscal belt-tightening we also know that smart, targeted investments are needed to give rural businesses and communities a competitive advantage in the global market.
President Obama and Secretary Vilsack know how important rural America is to our strength as a nation. And through these important investments, USDA is committed to ensuring that hard-working folks in our small towns, those who are creating so much for our country, don’t get left behind.
Rural Development State Director