Bozeman, MT, Jul 07, 2011 -- Yesterday, July 6, Ross Racine from Billings, Mont. was at the White House for a meeting he was asked to participate in with President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the President's Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes and leaders from rural communities across the country for the White House Rural Champions of Change event.
“$60 million in agriculture production comes out of our Montana reservations annually,” said Racine to Secretary Vilsack. “Very few of those dollars stay in the reservation communities. If we want to create sustainable economies, we need to base that on local food production, processing, and consumption – especially in our reservation communities.”
Racine is one of 13 people from ten different states that were invited to share their ideas directly with the Obama Administration about how to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth.
Ross Racine was selected because he is a leader in rural agriculture, especially as it relates to Indian country. Racine is currently the Executive Director of the Intertribal Agricultural Council, based in Billings. Ross’ entire professional career has been spent working with Indian farmers and ranchers in the development and management of their resources and he has extensive cross-cultural experience.
This week the White House Champions of Change focus is on farmers, ranchers and rural residents who are making a positive impact in their communities. Champions of Change is a White House initiative that recognizes ordinary Americans who are accomplishing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. The administration acknowledges that the best ideas come directly from the American people, and on a weekly basis a Champions of Change roundtable is held to spotlight some of the top ideas that are making change a reality across the country.
Today’s event is part of a series of meetings that are being held across the country this summer as part of the White House Rural Council (WHRC) and the White House Business Council to coordinate programs across government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions, quality of life and create jobs in rural communities.
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first WHRC chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Council will provide recommendations for investment in rural areas and will coordinate Federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including agricultural organizations, small businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments.
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 $150 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.