Ahead of the 2023 State of the Union address, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today highlighted the ways the Biden-Harris Administration is delivering on its promises to build a better America and rebuild the backbone of the country, the middle class.
“At USDA, we understand that rural communities are strong, and we are proud to help keep rural people healthy, kids educated, and local entrepreneurs powered and connected through assistance tailored specifically for the people of rural America,” Torres Small said. “By championing the vision of rural leaders, we help drive the kind of economic security, innovation and prosperity that impacts our entire nation. Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA remains committed to supporting opportunities for rural people to build brighter futures, because we know when rural people thrive, America thrives.”
Here is a look at USDA Rural Development’s actions in 2022 to rebuild our economy and rural communities, minimize impacts of climate change, create good-paying jobs for American workers, and invest in our families.
Expanding Equity in Rural Communities: USDA Rural Development is committed to the values of equity and inclusion rooted in justice and equal opportunity for our employees and those we serve. This includes recognizing opportunities within the Department that ensure underserved groups more fully access and participate in USDA programs and services. For instance:
- In April, the Biden-Harris Administration launched the Rural Partners Network, an all-of-government approach to help rural people in 36 rural and Tribal communities access federal funding and resources to help them thrive.
- In August, USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency partnered to launch the Closing America’s Wastewater Access Gap The agencies will provide technical assistance to help historically underserved communities identify and pursue federal funding for modern, reliable wastewater systems.
Implementing Climate-Smart Solutions: Climate change is happening, and America’s rural communities are on the frontlines. USDA is leading the way through climate-smart solutions that will improve the profitability and resilience of producers and foresters, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities for generations to come.
For instance, USDA Rural Development:
- Invested more than $1.3 billion to increase renewable energy production.
- Provided $700 million for biofuel producers who faced unexpected market losses.
- Made $300 million available under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to expand renewable energy and support energy-efficiency projects for people in rural America. This funding includes $250 million provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.
- Provided $100 million for infrastructure to meet the demand for higher-blend fuels.
- Approved up to $10 million to develop community renewable energy projects that will cut their energy costs and contribute to the nationwide effort to reduce pollution.
Food System Transformation: USDA is transforming the nation’s food system through a more equitable, diverse, and resilient meat and poultry supply chain. These actions touch all parts of the food supply chain – from food production, food processing, food aggregation, and distribution to consumers. For instance, USDA Rural Development:
- Provided $250 million through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program to help lenders support eligible entities to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.
- Announced more than $200 million to help meat and poultry farmers and producers by increasing competition and strengthening the food supply chain. These funds included $75 million in grants under the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program to help 22 farms and businesses expand their operations and create jobs and opportunities for people in communities across the nation.
- Awarded $75 million in grants to eight lenders in seven states through the first round of the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program to help nonprofit intermediary lenders finance the start-up, expansion or operation of meat and poultry processing.
Increasing Access to Opportunities in Rural America: USDA invested in the rural communities that provide food, fuel and fiber to our country. As a result, rural Americans are better able to thrive in the communities they love. Through these investments, USDA is amplifying President Biden’s promise to rebuild the physical infrastructure of our country to grow the economy for decades to come, create good-paying jobs, and better position rural America to compete in a global economy. In 2022, USDA Rural Development:
- Invested nearly $2 billion to expand access to reliable, high-speed internet. These investments include $548 million from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- Partnered with rural communities across the nation to increase internet access for 109,000 households, 14,520 farms, 5,900 businesses, 435 essential community facilities, 396 educational facilities and 51 health care facilities.
- Expanded access to distance learning and telemedicine services to 71 health care facilities and 26 schools to help 2 million rural people connect with educational and medical professionals virtually.
- Invested $1.7 billion through Community Facilities Programs to help more than 10 million rural people access critical resources to help them thrive. Out of these investments, $1 billion helped build or improve 74 health care facilities; $343 million helped build or improve 153 schools and educational facilities; and $148 million helped build or improve 464 fire, rescue and public safety stations.
- Invested $380 million through the American Rescue Plan’s Emergency Rural Health Care Grants to provide immediate relief to16 million rural people by supporting 563 rural hospitals and health care clinics across the nation.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean-energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.