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USDA Highlights Key Accomplishments in 2018 That Are Building Rural Prosperity

Jay Fletcher
Release Date

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today highlighted accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during 2018 that assisted rural communities in building prosperity and contributing to America’s growing economy. 
   “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA has made major strides to create rural economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for rural Americans,” Hazlett said. “By partnering with rural communities and stakeholders, modernizing infrastructure and innovating to address real-world challenges, USDA is infusing America’s rural towns and cities with the resources they need to build sustainable, prosperous futures.”
   Here are a few highlights of USDA Rural Development’s accomplishments for the 2018 fiscal year:

• Invested in new and improved broadband e-Connectivity for more than 45,000 rural homes and businesses.
• Invested in modernized rural electric infrastructure for more than 7 million customers.
• Invested in new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure for nearly 3 million rural customers.
• Invested in new and improved community infrastructure including roads, aviation, ports, and water and storm water resources for 1.2 million rural Americans.
• Implemented a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Small Business Administration to increase access to capital in rural America and increase leverage of USDA’s guaranteed loan funds.
• Partnered with federal and state leaders, local government interests and industry to discuss model practices and explore prospects to maximize the opportunity for natural gas development in rural communities.
• Co-led the White House Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group alongside the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to help address the opioid crisis by improving coordination of federal response in the Nation’s rural communities.
• Established a pilot program to increase homeownership on tribal lands in partnership with two Native community development finance institutions with long-standing relationships with South Dakotan and North Dakotan Tribes.
• Cut red tape and broke down regulatory barriers to expedite the construction of rural infrastructure by streamlining the regulatory review process.
• Launched a major regulatory reform effort to streamline four guaranteed lending programs into one common process through the One Guarantee rule, helping businesses and community leaders access the capital they need to compete and grow.
• Invested in 145 innovative distance learning and telemedicine projects to use broadband e-Connectivity to help 4.6 million rural Americans access health care, education, and job training opportunities in more than 730 counties.
• Created a data analytics and evidence team in the Rural Development Innovation Center to enable data-driven decision making in targeting Rural Development program investments.
• Built greater capacity for innovation at the local level through a new Rural Economic Development Initiative that will provide technical assistance for asset-based planning.  
• Created a suite of tools to help rural communities address the opioid crisis including:
o An interactive map of resources in rural communities to help individuals struggling with substance misuse.
o A Community Assessment Tool to help rural leaders understand the impact of the opioid epidemic and other socioeconomic factors in their communities with data.
o An all-encompassing one-stop-shop guide to federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities.
   In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to the president. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure, and increasing coordination of existing resources through partnerships and innovation are key recommendations of the task force.
   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs 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 areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.