Obama administration announces steps to boost the rural economy

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2012 -Obama Administration officials announced three actions to expand the government's purchase of biobased products, promote regional rural job creation efforts, and develop a rural healthcare workforce.

“My Administration is committed to using every tool available to promote economic growth and create good jobs in rural America,” said President Obama.  “The actions we're taking today are possible thanks to the feedback and ideas I've received from hardworking Americans across rural America, including the participants at the White House Rural Economic Forum.”

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who chairs the White House Rural Council, said these actions will bring new economic investments to rural communities.

The three announcements were recommended by federal agencies participating in the White House Rural Council, and leverage existing programs and funding.

New initiatives being announced today include:

• Promoting a Bioeconomy:  President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today directing the Federal Government to take decisive steps to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years, which he said will create jobs and drive innovation where biobased products are grown and manufactured.  The Memorandum will also result in a 50 percent increase in the number of new products that are designated as biobased.  Biobased products include items like paints, soaps and detergents and are developed from farm grown plants, rather than chemicals or petroleum bases.

• Rural Jobs Accelerator: The Rural Jobs Accelerator is a national competition that will provide about $15 million for projects that promote innovation-fueled regional job creation.  The competition will combine funding from the USDA, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission.   Additionally, this approach will require multiple agencies to coordinate technical assistance and grant / loan programs so that potential rural customers have a single access point within the Federal government to mobilize the resources of the government to help a region of the country. USDA will use the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program to support this effort and provide technical assistance and training funds to qualified intermediary organizations to develop their capacity to undertake housing, community facilities, and community and economic development projects in rural areas.  The Federal Funding Opportunity will be released in the next few weeks.

• Rural Health IT Workforce:  The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect  community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by 2016. 


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