WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a Middle Class Task Force meeting in St. Cloud, Minn., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said: "Improving the lives of people in Main Street America is a major priority of the Obama Administration. The New Flyer plant in St. Cloud is a great example of how continued investment in research and production of alternative fuels will not only help improve the environment, but create much needed jobs in rural America."

Chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the central goal of the Middle Class Taskforce is developing public policies to help middle class families by improving their living standards. Today's town hall discussion was held at the New Flyer of America Bus Company in St. Cloud, Minn., and focused on implementing the Recovery Act as a way to help middle class families during dire economic times.

In his remarks, Vilsack also announced stimulus funding that Minnesota has received from the USDA this week:

  • Direct Operating Loans: $7,514,890 obligated to 87 recipients. More than half are these recipients are beginning farmers.
  • Forest Service Improvement. $557,000 for improvement and maintenance of roads.
  • Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program. $1,386,639 for the upgrading and improvement of systems so that recipients can access their benefits through EBT cards.

  • Vilsack also emphasized that farms, ranches and rural communities can take a lead in expanding the capacity to produce alternative forms of energy and fuel. The USDA has dedicated research funding for biofuels and biorefinery technology and is exploring how other forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, can be adapted to agricultural uses. The USDA also award grants and loans to help rural Americans to invest in wind, solar and anaerobic energy solutions for their communities.