USDA in Kansas: Progress report on the first 100 days
USDA working to foster rural economic development, provide nutritious food for all Americans
On the 100th day of the Obama administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture reflected on the new course it has set to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply to ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and to revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities. Although he is focused on the difficult challenges ahead, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said he was pleased with the changes that USDA is bringing to communities across America.
"In the first 100 days of this new administration, USDA has moved quickly to respond to these difficult economic times by creating jobs, increasing food aid to those in need and revitalizing rural communities," said Vilsack. "Over the next 100 days and beyond, we will continue our hard work to ensure that as an every day, every way Department, USDA helps our nation fight against climate change, provide a nutritious diet for all Americans and maintains a strong safety net for America's farmers and ranchers."
In Kansas, USDA is working to live up to Secretary Vilsack's expectations for focusing on conserving our natural resources and mitigating global warming. In the first 100 days the Natural Resources Conservation Service developed a contract with private firms to complete the planning and design on the stimulus projects in Kansas: Watershed Rehabilitation on Site 7 of the Switzler Creek Watershed (Osage County) and Watershed Operations on Site 12 of the Big Caney Watershed (Cowley County). An Emergency Watershed Protection Program Floodplain Easement signup was conducted in Kansas from March 9 to April 10. Eligible applications received have been ranked and submitted with NRCS recommendations to national headquarters.
USDA has taken swift action to implement the farm bill and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. These actions have resulted in bold new projects and initiatives that will spur rural economic activity and contribute to the nation's overall financial health. Since January:
--USDA has distributed all of the nearly $170 million in Recovery Act funding for direct farm operating loans. The funds went to 2,521 producers in 47 states and nearly 20 percent are going to socially disadvantaged producers.
--USDA has worked with state partners to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by $80 each month for a family of four. Over the next two years, this benefit increase will create or save 100,000 jobs.
--USDA announced $84.8 million in Recovery Act funding to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities. And just yesterday, we announced more than $600 million in funding to provide safe drinkingwater and improved wastewater treatment systems for rural towns in 34 states. These efforts will create jobs and revitalize rural communities.
--To make America a leader in the fight against climate change, Secretary Vilsack has worked in collaboration with the Department of Energy to make $25 million available for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.
--To ensure better health for America's children, USDA has updated the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) to begin distributing new food packages which for the first time include fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and reduced-fat dairy options.
Finally, USDA has kept faith with the American people by working to deliver a government that is open and transparent, responsive and accountable to the American people. In the first 100 days, USDA has cut waste and saved the American taxpayer tens of millions of dollars by finding efficiencies in programs and administrative processes. The Department will also save millions though a new policy to identify potential fraud and improper payments in farm programs. Secretary Vilsack has also made civil rights a top priority, taking definitive action to improve the Department's record and to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.
Though there is much more progress to be made, Secretary Vilsack is committed to making USDA a place that touches the lives of every American every day. Under his leadership, USDA will work to ensure healthier lives for America's children by providing nutritious food options, to spur economic development through biofuels and focusing on mitigating climate change, and to provide a safety net and revitalized communities for America's small and mid-sized farmers.