Lincoln, Nebraska, Mar 10, 2011 -- There has been a lot of attention recently on the future of our country, as leaders deal with a variety of issues facing our economy.
Meanwhile, here in Nebraska we continue to experience economic success in our agriculture sector and in rural communities. We are enjoying a strong agriculture economy, and for most of our state’s history we have prided ourselves on our high quality of life, strong work ethic and beautiful landscape.
The key to winning the future involves a balance of preserving all that we hold sacred while reaching our full potential in our economic prosperity. We need to be smart and think strategically about how we want our state to look 10, 20 and 50 years down the road.
We can win Nebraska’s future by making investments in three areas: innovation, education and infrastructure.
By encouraging innovation, we help promote technology and the sciences. These job sectors help diversify our economy and complement our strong agriculture and newly developing energy industries. To compete in the 21st century, we must also harness the potential of every young mind in our state. Investing in our future generations with great schools, talented teachers and a quality system of higher education ensures that our kids have the tools necessary to compete in the workplace and adapt to a changing workforce. Finally, we need to build infrastructure. By upgrading our roads, water systems and utilities, we put people to work and lay the foundation for Nebraska to sustain our economic success well into the future. That infrastructure includes the vital access to homeownership.
Through USDA Rural Development, we have been implementing these three pillars by investing in communities and enriching their residents. The deployment of high-speed Internet through our Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs allows our hospitals to operate more efficiently, creates more educational opportunities for our kids, provides real-time information to our producers and increases the attractiveness to live and work in all parts of the state.
Since they took office in 2009, President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been clear in their message: We must work to build rural communities that are sustainable and thriving economically.
We have taken steps toward achieving these goals in Nebraska by creating private sector jobs, investing in new technologies like broadband, expanding the use of renewable energy and updating rural infrastructure and facilities.
Each and every time I visit a project in Nebraska -- whether it's the installation of fiber to the home in Southeast Nebraska so rural residents can be connected to high speed internet; new hospital construction in McCook; a manufacturing facility in Holdrege that is saving and creating jobs; or a group of new home owners -- I am extremely proud of the steps we have taken toward strengthening Nebraska’s rural economy.
But these are challenging times. We cannot ignore the budget deficits accumulated over the last decade.
President Obama's 2012 Budget Proposal makes difficult cuts to some USDA programs in order to address the deficit and help build a foundation for long-term economic prosperity.
There are some tough decisions being made about the USDA's budget. Currently, we do not know what the budget reductions at agencies like the USDA will look like. However, I am confident that President Obama and Secretary Vilsack will do their best to provide a budget that focuses on the elements most essential to the long-term growth of rural communities.
These elements include making credit readily available to entrepreneurs and communities, building essential community facilities such as hospitals, fire stations and libraries, and continuing our efforts to expand the use of renewable energy.
We have worked long and hard over the years to build valuable partnerships with rural stakeholders throughout Nebraska. These partnerships and collaborations are more important now than they ever have been. I am confident that we will all be able to work together and continue making rural Nebraska a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Leaders on all levels will have to be smart and strategic as we pave our path forward. By making the necessary investments now we will ensure that our prosperity continues and we’ll leave a high quality of life for the next generation. By pairing hope with opportunity, we can be sure Nebraska’s better days are still ahead of us.
Yes, these are definitely challenging times. But we look forward to facing these challenges and helping rural Nebraska win the future.
State Director, USDA Rural Development