WASHINGTON, Apr 22, 2013 -- WASHINGTON, April 22, 2013 – As part of USDA’s Earth Day celebration, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced support for projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment across the country. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today’s announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
“At USDA, we believe it is critical that communities across the country have reliable, clean and safe water,” Vilsack said. “This Earth Day, I also encourage residents of communities affected by natural disasters, including those hit by Hurricane Sandy, to apply for funding through the USDA Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants Program.”
In all, 43 water and wastewater projects in 32 states will be funded. Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, organized through the efforts of the late Wisconsin Senator and conservationist Gaylord Nelson, the event has expanded to include participation by citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
As part of today’s announcement, USDA Rural Development is providing more than $145.2 million to improve water quality and provide a safe and healthy environment for rural Americans.
Acting Maryland Director Kathy Beisner was joined by federal, state and local officials in the Town of Betterton to highlight a $1.38 million loan and a $1 million grant to complete the upgrade of a 45-year-old wastewater treatment facility that is functioning at only 10 percent of its original capacity.
“As we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, it is important to remember that there are many aspects to keeping the places that we call home clean,” said Beisner. “For most of us, a wastewater treatment facility may not be what immediately comes to mind, but the upgrades to this facility will play a major role in ensuring that we are protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary waters.”
The new facility will provide necessary upgrades to meet safety and environmental standards, including protecting the shellfish harvesting waters along the Sassafras River. There will be 339 homes and businesses served by this facility.
Betterton Mayor Carolyn Sorge said, “While Betterton is one of the smallest treatment facilities on the river, we share the responsibility for taking all steps necessary to make improvements in water quality. The residents of Betterton strive to be good stewards of the river and the upgraded wastewater treatment facility is one very important step in improving the quality of the river.”
Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant, or loan/grant agreement. A complete list of water and wastewater award recipients is located here. (see attached).
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources 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, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.