Washington -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for projects in 40 states to finance investments in improved water and wastewater systems for more than 200,000 rural residents.
'Rural businesses and residents need access to clean water and modern waste disposal systems. This isn't just an economic issue, it's an issue of basic health and safety,' said Vilsack. 'Water and wastewater projects like these help safeguard rural access to a modern, working infrastructure, which in turn ensures a decent quality of life and helps attract – and keep – the best and brightest in small towns across America.'
Vilsack noted that passage of a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs bill would help tackle the $2.1 billion backlog of shovel-ready rural water/wastewater projects, and said the bill is vital to rural communities. These are just some of the reasons why Congress should pass a comprehensive bill as soon as possible, he said.
In today's announcement, USDA is providing $203 million to finance 74 water and infrastructure improvement projects in 40 states. For example, Eagle Butte, S.D., has been selected to receive a $2 million loan/grant combination to upgrade a wastewater treatment system that serves more than 3,000 residents in one of the poorest parts of the state. In Texas, the El Paso County Water Improvement District #4 is getting a $4.2 million loan/grant combination to install a new water storage tank and nano-filtration system. The project will provide clean, safe water for more than 8,000 residents.
The funding is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Water and Environmental Program. It will have a significant impact on rural residents and businesses – as it did for people who live and work near Berlin, Md. At the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development awarded the town $11.8 million in Recovery Act loans and grants to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to meet environmental standards. The project had benefits beyond improved wastewater services for local residents and businesses. Sixty-five construction workers, who had lost their jobs just before the town received the Rural Development funds, were hired to work on the project.
The Berlin project is one of nearly 3,900 water and wastewater projects supported with funding authorized by the Farm Bill that Rural Development has financed since 2009. These projects have created jobs and provided clean water for nearly 14 million rural residents.
View here the list of projects that will receive USDA funding, contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the funding agreement.
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.