Dubuque, IA, May 18, 2012 -- Today, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien addressed attendees at the Tri-State Alliance Annual Summit to discuss the essential role local food systems play as rural communities look for ways to remain resilient, add jobs and offer the best quality-of-life opportunities to their residents.
“The development of strong local and regional food systems is a pillar of USDA’s strategic plan,” O’Brien said. “People want to know where their food is coming from and are requesting locally grown foods. They also recognize the importance of supporting local producers and local economies.”
The theme of this year’s meeting was “Creating Resilient Communities” and examined regional opportunities and priorities including local foods, infrastructure development, and economic growth.
Recent studies show that local food production is having a real economic impact. For example, in Iowa a study in 2010 showed that farmers’ markets in the state provide an estimated $60 million in direct and indirect sales.
In 2009, USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to help farmers, ranchers and food businesses take advantage of these opportunities. The initiative brings together USDA’s many agencies and offices to coordinate our work on local and regional food systems. We share resources, work with stakeholders to ensure that our programs serve you, publicize USDA programs available to support local food systems, and coordinate our work to be a one-stop shop for producers, food businesses and community groups interested in local food systems.
During his trip to Iowa, O’Brien also visited Guttenberg Municipal Hospital to see firsthand healthcare improvements one year after the completion of an extensive remodeling and expansion project. USDA Rural Development provided guaranteed and direct loan funds totaling $15.2 million to assist with financing the project. During the past three years USDA Rural Development has awarded $146 million in financial assistance to 24 hospitals in Iowa to improve, expand or build new facilities.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to using Federal resources more efficiently to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
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 active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees, including the Value-Added Producer Grant program. 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.
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