This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

What USDA Did This Week to Help Rural America:

Secretary Tom Vilsack gives an update on how the United States Department of Agriculture is making a difference for Americans in rural areas -- the first in a "Keeping Up with the Cabinet" series.

This post is the first in a new series that will highlight the work happening across the President's cabinet on any given week. Check back each week -- we guarantee you'll learn something that surprises you.

Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From bio-based products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless. Most rural businesses are small ones -- and they support one in three jobs in rural America. Our loans and grants are helping those businesses thrive -- supporting reliable services like water, housing and broadband to make these same communities attract and retain a talented workforce. Collectively, these investments support the businesses and families that call America’s rural areas “home.” That's because we know that the better we equip those communities with the resources they need to succeed, the stronger our entire country's economy will be as a result.

I'm proud to report that the Department of Agriculture did several really important things to help rural communities across the country this week. Here's a run down on what we've been up to. Take a look, and if you learned something new -- pass it on.

Want to stay up to date with USDA? Follow along with us on Twitter at @USDA.

We made key investments in connecting rural communities to the Internet.

Most folks don't realize that there are communities across America that still lack access to broadband Internet -- an amenity as essential today as electricity was in the 1930's. We're working to fix that.

On Wednesday, we announced more than $190 million in investments in broadband projects through our Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.

These investments are going to mean that communities like Chickaloon, Alaska -- home to tourism businesses, artisans who are hand-manufacturing unique Alaskan crafts, lodging, and food -- now have access to high-speed broadband internet.

Want to learn more? Take a look at this post on the USDA blog.

We announced new funding to bring clean and reliable water to those communities.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to announce more than $352 million in loans and grants that will upgrade the rural water and wastewater systems in communities across the country. These investments won't just help make sure these rural areas have access to clean water -- they'll also create jobs and help those communities retain and attract new businesses and residents.

You might not realize that we've invested nearly $11 billion in this sort of new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure since 2009 -- and it's benefited nearly 15 million rural residents and almost 6 million households and businesses.

Learn more about that announcement here.

And we made it easier to learn how our investments are helping your state.

Want to get a deeper dive into exactly how our investments are at work in your state? This week, we also released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” fact sheets. Each state fact sheet provides a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America.

The fact sheets showcase some of the innovative businesses at work in rural areas across the country. For example, Smude’s Natural Sunflower Oil in Pierz, Minnesota, produces cold-pressed sunflower oil. With support from USDA, the company now processes 30,000 bushels of sunflower seeds each year and produces several thousand gallons of food-grade, cold-processed sunflower oil. Smude’s products can be found in over 100 retail stores and restaurants throughout Minnesota and the owners are now working to become the country’s first national distributor of food-grade, cold-pressed sunflower oil.

And in Oregon, a USDA grant has supported the non-profit Sustainable Northwest as they find new uses for Western juniper wood. Western juniper has outgrown its natural range in central and eastern Oregon, and is threatening ecosystem health. Sustainable Northwest is using a USDA grant to market the naturally rot-resistant Western juniper wood as an alternative to pressure-treated wood. Making it marketable will create jobs in Oregon’s timber and forest product industries while supporting ecosystem restoration. These are just a few example of what investments in rural America can mean in real terms for families and businesses across the country.

To see how rural businesses support a strong economy in your state, visit