U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited Southeast Missouri and held a rural community forum to listen to comments and concerns of local residents. Vilsack also shared information with local residents about the work USDA is doing to revitalize and rebuild rural America through its ongoing programs and projects.

"Rural America is the lifeblood of our country and it is imperative that we do what it takes to keep our rural communities strong," said Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to investing in and revitalizing these communities, in part because they play an important role in our national and international food delivery system."

Vilsack discussed how the USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources and touches the life of every American. Under his leadership, the USDA is working to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities.

Vilsack also noted several American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) efforts that are underway in Missouri and across the country through the work of USDA. Some of these efforts to make positive change in the lives of Missourians include:

Through the Direct Operating Farm Loan Program, the Farm Service Agency has assisted 75 Missouri farmers with nearly $4 million in loans. Of these 35 have been to beginning farmers and 14 have been socially disadvantaged farmers. A total of $2,425,830 in loans has gone to beginning farmers in Missouri.

On April 1, 2009, benefits increased in Colorado and nationwide for households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Most four-person households will receive an $80 increase in their monthly SNAP benefit as a result of ARRA.

Eligibility limits on jobless adults will be suspended in most areas. Additional SNAP benefits in Missouri will total more than $453 million.

The Rural Development Agency has received approval to fund 12 water and wastewater projects with $42,765,404 in loan and grant funds ($24,023,000 loan and $18,742,404 grant).

Source: USDA