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70 Years of Commitment to Rural America: A History of Rural Development Programs

Poster for the Resettlement Administration with the slogan, 'a mule and a plow: small loans give farmers a new start,' that has a charcoal drawing of a grim farmer next to his mule April 30, 1935:

       President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7027 establishing the Resettlement Administration. That agency relocated destitute families stricken by the Depression, restored soil-eroded areas, and provided modest emergency loans to farmers for land and equipment.

Depression-era African American woman in a doorway wearing an apron and headwrap
       Later, in 1946, Congress established the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) to expand the original agency's functions beyond farm credit. Congress authorized FmHA to provide financing in rural areas for housing, community facilities, and business ventures.

       See "A Brief History of Farmers Home Administration" (PDF, 4,353 Kb*) to learn more.

Hand holding pull-chain on an old-style lightbulb illuminated by the bulb
 May 11, 1935:

       President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to provide electricity to rural areas. REA became part of the Department of Agriculture in 1939.

       Over time, Congress expanded the agency's role. In 1949, Congress directed REA to oversee a rural telephone program, and, in the 1970s, it authorized the Rural Telephone Bank and use of revolving loan funds to finance the agency's telecommunications programs. More recently, Congress has tasked the agency with delivery of Internet-based telcommunications programs including distance learning and broadband.

       See "A Brief History of the Rural Electric and Telephone Programs" (PDF, 6,389 Kb*) to learn more.

 October 13, 1994:

       The Department of Agriculture was reorganized under the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act. Under that Act, USDA Rural Development was created to administer the former FmHA's non-farm financial programs for rural housing, community facilities, water and waste disposal, and rural businesses. The former REA's utility programs were also consolidated within Rural Development.

       Today, Rural Development is the venture capitalist for rural America, built on the legacy of these Depression-era agencies begun 70 years ago. We are helping to develop the technological infrastructure that will enable rural America to compete in the 21st century domestically and globally. We are committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an $86 billion dollar loan portfolio, and we will administer nearly $16 billion in program loans, loan guarantees, and grants through our programs.

Rural main street with shops, balloons, and an American flag

 Anniversary Celebration (click photos to enlarge)

Under Secretary Gonzalez introduces Ag Secretary JohannsActing Rural Development Under Secretary Gilbert Gonzalez introduces Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (far right), the keynote speaker. >>

Secretary Johanns addresses the crowd at the event

CEO English, long view with crowd<< Glenn English, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO, speaks at the event. >>

CEO English, close up

Sam Morgan (LAPAS) and Ray Sheehan (Ethics Office) provide musicSam Morgan (standing) and Ray Sheehan of USDA play music for the guests. >>

See 70 Years of Commitment to Rural America: Anniversary Celebration Program (PDF, 11,341 Kb) for more about our history.

Video News Release: "USDA Marks Seventy Years of Rural Development" -- Real Player** / Windows Media Player**

* PDF files require the Adobe Acrobat Reader.
** Audio presentations require installation of a media player like the Real Player or Windows Media Player.


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Rural Development is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administers rural business, cooperative, housing, utilities and community development programs.

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