U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited Indiana and held a rural community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, listen to local residents talk about how USDA can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This is the sixth such forum Vilsack has led since being sworn in as Secretary.
“To rebuild and revitalize rural America, President Obama and I want those affected by decisions made in Washington to participate in the process of developing innovative solutions and charting a path for communities to participate and thrive in the new 21st century economy,” said Vilsack.
Vilsack’s visit to Indiana today continues the USDA’s listening tour through rural America. Previously, he visited Brush, Co., Portageville, Mo., Ludowici, Ga., Harrodsburg, Ky., and Geneseo, Ill.
At today’s rural community forum, Vilsack discussed how the USDA is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities. He also noted several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in Indiana and across the country including the following:
- Just today, USDA announced $3.3 million in Recovery Act funding for a watershed project in Terre Haute, Ind., that will protect against future flooding. The Natural Reserve Conservation Service project will construct six miles of dikes along the Thompson Ditch beginning near the confluence of Honey Creek;
- Also today, USDA announced $8,150,472 in Recovery Act funding for 13 floodplain easement projects in Indiana, covering 3,016 acres. This Natural Resources Conservation Services funding will reduce the impact of flooding in eight counties in Indiana;
- USDA has committed $2.4 million for five Community Facilities projects in Indiana ranging from construction of a library to the purchase of used police vehicles and police station improvements;
- USDA has helped guarantee 1,058 loans in the state worth $102 million and directly issued another 56 loans worth $5.9 million through the Recovery Act;
- USDA is working to distribute the $173 million allocated in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. So far, three Indiana farmers have been awarded a total of $532,000 in loans to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies;
- USDA has committed $44.5 million for eight Water and Waste Disposal projects in Indiana. The projects will help upgrade crumbling infrastructure to provide safe drinking water and improved wastewater treatment systems for the rural towns of Carthage, Dana, Elnora, Montezuma, Moores Hill and for water districts in Brown County as well as the Tamerix Lake and Koontz Lake regions.
- USDA has committed $292,000 for a state grant for Hazardous Fuels Removal on state and private lands through Forest Service Wildland Fire Management funding. Additionally, the Forest Service Capital Improvement and Maintenance is providing $400,000 for Paoli Experimental Forest Road Maintenance and Improvements; and
- The Recovery Act provided for increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. USDA estimates SNAP recipients in Indiana will receive more than $400 million in SNAP benefit increases.