USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today formalized a cooperative relationship for environmental justice and community development. This new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) supports local educational institutions working in partnership with community leaders for improving economic conditions in persistent poverty areas of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina as part of the Community Underserved Partnership Program (CUPP).
“This partnership helps under-served communities access resources for addressing important issues to improve their long term viability,” said Georgia USDA Rural Development Director, Quinton Robinson.
The three-year MOU represents USDA’s commitment to rural communities and creates the framework for expanding USDA program reach. It brings together academia, federal agencies, local governments, and grassroots organizations fostering sustainable growth and economic development in rural and small communities. Issues such as sustainable economic development, energy efficiency, land reuse, food inequality, and environmental pollution can be addressed.
For example, Rural Studies students at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College teamed up to develop a downtown revitalization plan for the City of Ashburn; students from Savannah State University are working with the cities of Riceboro; Midway; and Walthourville to develop engineering planning assistance for multi-use facilities; a new city hall for Midway; and parks and recreational area. And while those projects are underway, CUPP principles are also at work as Rural Development provides technical assistance and program outreach for these projects.
CUPP benefits both the communities being served and the students involved in the program. Under-served communities are provided with the additional resources and diverse perspectives of a college-educated student body. Students in the program benefit from working collaboratively with City officials, community organizations, environmental professionals, and other stakeholders in solving existing problems and influencing change in actual communities. With this MOU, USDA and EPA are uniting for sustainability and economic development in rural and small communities.
President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.