“The report allows us to document the extensive and historical investment the Obama Administration has made in rural America,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who serves as chair of the White House Rural Council. “It also presents vital strategies that can and will be used to seize those opportunities and tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our rural communities.”
He noted that some of these challenges include access to capital for small businesses in rural America, as well as the 50 percent decrease in population over the last century and an outmigration of young people from rural areas.
Despite those challenges, Vilsack also recognized the surge in agricultural productivity in recent years and that the farm sector income experienced a rapid rebound, growing 27 percent in 2010, as noted in the report.
The “Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America” report focuses on five areas: creating jobs and promoting economic growth, improving access to quality health care and education, fostering innovation, expanding outdoor opportunities, and supporting veterans and military families.
According to the report, $6.2 billion in financing from the Obama Administration helped nearly 10,000 rural businesses expand. Other highlights include assistance to more than 400,000 rural homeowners, financial aid to 10,000 rural small businesses and broadband access to more than 7 million rural Americans through USDA’s Broadband Initiative Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Veterans’ programs are also featured in the report, which indicates that while rural residents account for 17 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 44 percent of the men and women serving in the military. The unemployment rate as of July 2011 among post-September 11 veterans is above 12 percent; however, the Veterans Employment Initiative hired more than 100,000 veterans in the past year and a half, according to the report.
To read the full report, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/jobs_economic_security_rural_america.pdf
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