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Top Obama Administration Officials Hold ’Rural Tour’ Community Forum in Virginia


Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Energy Secretary Chu Discusses Administration Efforts, Collects Ideas on Developing a New Energy Economy, Creating Green Jobs

GRETNA, Va.- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu today visited Virginia and held a ’Rural Tour’ community forum to discuss efforts by the Obama Administration to rebuild and revitalize rural America, listen to local residents talk about how the federal government can assist them, and discuss solutions to challenges facing their communities. This event follows the launch of the Obama Administration’s ’Rural Tour’ in June.

“To overcome challenges and be successful in a new, 21st century economy, President Obama has asked that we reach out to people in rural communities across the country to listen, learn and facilitate problem-solving,” said Vilsack. “It is critically important to hear the thoughts, concerns and stories about each community’s vision for its future and to collect ideas about how USDA can better serve these communities.”

“With new energy sources that are home-grown and home-made we can create good jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and save our planet,” said Chu. “President Obama shares my belief that rural America can and must lead America’s transition to a clean energy economy.”

At today’s rural community forum, the two Obama Administration officials discussed the importance of producing next generation biofuels to develop ’green jobs’ and generate energy from new, homegrown sources. They also highlighted the cross-departmental efforts that are underway to foster the growing biofuels industry.

Secretaries Vilsack and Chu also highlighted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act efforts that are underway in Virginia and across the country, including the following:

* Virginia is slated to receive more than $94 million though DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
* DOE will also provide Virginia $70 million in State Energy Program funding to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, which create or retain jobs, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
* Through DOE’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant Program, local governments across the state will also receive more than $60 million to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use.
* DOE’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA, was awarded $75 million from the Recovery Act to fund construction of its 12 GeV Upgrade project and to modernize infrastructure.
* Through USDA’s Rural Development, 7 communities in Virginia will benefit from $15.8 million in investments in local water and waste systems. One of the Waste and Water projects is in Carroll County where more than $1 million in Recovery Act funding is being used to improve and extend rural water service to the northern area of the county and connect the distribution system to a new water source.
* Through USDA’s Rural Development, approximately $2.1 million will be made available for 55 community facilities projects.
* USDA’s Forest Service is providing $740,000 for two Recovery Act projects in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. The projects will construct six arches and replace four culverts in five counties. This work will reduce sedimentation in streams, restore water quality and fish habitat and provide safe public transportation.
* USDA’s Rural Development has helped guarantee 1,110 loans worth $158 million in the state of Virginia through the Single Family Housing Loan program. These loans help residents and producers to have access to the capital they need to keep rural communities strong.
* USDA’s Farm Service Agency is working to distribute the $173 million allocated in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. So far, 34 Virginia farmers have been awarded more than $2.8 million in loans to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies.
* USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service announced $4.3 million in funding for 2 watershed rehabilitation projects and nearly $1 million for 3 watershed protection and flood protection projects. These investments will help fund rehabilitation of a dam in Fairfax County as well as land treatment measures on farms in the Little Reed Island Creek (Carroll, Pulaski and Wythe Counties) and Chestnut Creek (Carroll and Grayson Counties)Watersheds.
* Through USDA, the Recovery Act provided for an estimated increase of $38.7 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Virginia. Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit. Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. The State of Virginia also received $2.6 million in State Administrative Funds.
* USDA is also helping low-income Virginia residents to receive healthy, nutritious meals through $2.3 million in funding from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Kids in Virginia also will benefit from $1.9 through the National School Lunch Program.

In June, President Obama announced that Secretary Vilsack will lead the Administration’s Rural Tour to visit rural communities in states throughout the country. Secretary Vilsack is scheduled to lead Rural Tour events with a variety of other top administration officials over the coming weeks and months in Alaska, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. As the eleventh similar forum Secretary Vilsack has led since being sworn, these upcoming events follow the rural listening sessions held earlier this year in West Salem, Wis., Charlotte, Mich., Concord, N.H., Wattsburg, Pa., Danville, Ind., Geneseo, Ill., Harrodsburg, Ky., Ludowici, Ga., Portageville, Mo., and Brush, Colo.


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