AUSTIN, TEXAS (USDA) – USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager met with electric utility officials and business leaders from across the country Sept. 19 to promote ways USDA is working with them to create jobs and strengthen rural economies.
"USDA Rural Development and the Obama Administration are reaching out to you, the local rural business owner and community member," Tonsager told attendees of the National G&T Managers' Association Fall meeting here. "We want to get your input on important issues affecting your communities and provide resources to assist with those issues."
The meeting served as an opportunity to educate participants about USDA programs and other federal resources that can help rebuild and revitalize rural communities throughout the country. It is part of a series of roundtables that are being held across the country this summer and fall with senior Obama Administration officials on behalf of the White House Rural Council.
Participants at the National Generation & Transmission (G&T) Managers' Association meeting discussed the future of rural energy during the two-day meeting. Tonsager underscored the ways Rural Development programs – such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) – are helping rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy consumption, spur economic development, create jobs and become more profitable.
Last week, Tonsager announced REAP grants for 23 Texas businesses. Fourteen of these projects will improve energy efficiency in poultry houses. The funding is expected to save the recipients a total of $191,653 per year by retrofitting existing structures or building new boiler production houses to replace inefficient ones.
Four REAP recipients in Texas received funding to install photovoltaic solar thermal systems to offset propane energy used to heat poultry houses. These investments are expected to lower energy costs by $48,340 annually. REAP is one of many USDA Rural Development programs that help rural businesses create jobs.
On Sept. 8, President Obama presented the American Jobs Act in an address to Congress. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. The American Jobs Act is specific. It will put people back to work right now, and it will not add to the deficit. Through a combination of direct spending – such as infrastructure investments, tax relief and an extension of payroll tax cuts – the act will lead to new American jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21 direct or indirect jobs are created for each $1 million invested in infrastructure.
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in rural communities.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.