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White House Rural Council Hosts Forum on Regional Innovation

Rachelle Howe, Executive Director of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission and Teresa Wiemerslage, ISU Extension and Outreach Region 4 Program Coordinator, recently attended Washington, D.C. to attend The White House Rural Council on Thursday, September 18th.  They met with officials from economic development districts, county governments and non-profit organizations to discuss ways to replicate successful regional economic development strategies.

The pair attended the meeting representing the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.  Invited organizations were nominated by each state’s USDA Rural Development Director and were selected because of their innovative approaches and partnerships to support economic development in rural areas.

“Innovative regional development can work especially well in rural areas because it helps communities share resources across boundaries such as county and state lines,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “By focusing on one or a few common sectors, regional development can produce greater economic returns.”

The forum at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building is the second on regional economic development. The first was held in June 2012. Vilsack, who chairs the White House Rural Council, delivered the keynote address at this forum.

The White House Rural Council coordinates the Obama Administration’s efforts in rural America by improving the effectiveness of federal programs. It works with public and private-sector partners on new ways to solve problems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commitment to regional economic development spans several department wide initiatives. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems to grow regional economies, preserve regional agricultural heritage and create additional opportunities for regional farmers and ranchers. USDA’s Strike Force Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity aligns USDA resources to promote economic stability, job opportunities and regional growth in targeted high poverty areas. It leverages efforts with the private sector and community partners.

For more information on these initiatives and to read success stories, visit www.usda.gov.
During the forum, Vilsack announced the selection of 186 projects for USDA Rural Development loans and grants to support economic development in rural communities. The funding is being provided through the Community Facilities program, the Intermediary Relending Program, the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program and the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program.

Funding for each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. In total, Vilsack announced more than $27 million in support for regional and economic development projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. This announcement is one part of the Department’s overall efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

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 Secretary 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.