Thursday, January 19, 2012

What the USDA has done for California

After our interview yesterday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's office sent me a synopsis of all of the things the department accomplished for Californians in the three-year tenure of the Obama administration. Here it is:
Support for American Agriculture

· Over the past three years, USDA’s crop insurance program has paid out about $356.1 million in crop insurance indemnities to more than 98,656 California farmers who lost crops due to natural disasters.

· Other disaster assistance programs have provided nearly $143 million in aid to more than 15,000 California farmers and ranchers recovering from natural disasters.

· Provided 2,047 loans to California family farmers, totaling $328.6 million in total credit. In California, nearly 60 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Conserving our Natural Resources

· We increased the pace of restoration on our National Forests, creating hundreds of jobs improving more than 1,600 miles of roads and reducing the risk of wildfire for over 400 communities by removing flammable vegetation on nearly 590,000 acres.

· Worked to improve water and soil quality and enhance wildlife habitat on 3,724,491 acres of private lands.

· Implemented projects to improve air quality for the American people. In California alone, USDA partnered with landowners to install nearly 500 projects that are estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 240,000 vehicles off the road.

Rural Economic Development

· Provided 250 grants and loans to assist 1,917 rural small and mid-sized businesses in creating or saving 6,359 jobs.

· Invested in 228 community facilities projects, reaching 1,987,210 rural Americans.

· Helped 12,606 rural families throughout California buy or refinance a home.

· Invested over $268 million in approximately 90 water and waste water community infrastructure projects to help safeguard the health of over 200,000 rural residents.

· Invested in new and improved broadband service for 18,122 households, businesses and anchor institutions.

· Helped improve and modernize rural electric infrastructure for over 12,000 rural households and businesses with 183 miles of new and upgraded electric lines.

· The Rural Energy for America program helped approximately 77 rural small businesses, farmers, and ranchers, save energy and improve their bottom line by installing renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions that will save a projected 7,116,888 in kWh.

I was impressed by the fact that Secretary Vilsack called me directly -- just picked up the phone in his office and dialed my number. Often you'll have these three-way conversations where the press office orchestrates a conference call and directs traffic, but that wasn't the case this time.

And while the reason for his call was undoubtedly to tout the administration in an election year, I appreciated that he gave me ample time to ask whatever questions were on my mind.

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