Friday, May 27, 2022

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High gas prices are not slowing down Memorial Day travel, early voting starts tomorrow in Nevada, and Oregon activists seek accountability for dioxin contamination in low-income Eugene.

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Education Secretary Cardona calls for action after the Texas massacre, Republicans block a domestic terrorism vote, and Secretary of State Blinken calls China the greatest challenger to U.S. and its allies.

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High-speed internet is being used to entice remote workers to rural communities, Georgia is offering Black women participation in a guaranteed income initiative, and under-resourced students in Montana get a boost toward graduation.

USDA Pilot Program Launches in Nine NM Counties

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Friday, May 13, 2022   

New Mexico will be one of the first states to receive help from the Rural Partners Network, a new government initiative aiming to reset the way Washington, D.C., works with rural communities.

Billions of federal dollars are available to help rural communities repair and build infrastructure such as roads and bridges, clean drinking-water systems, hospitals and schools.

Xochitl Torres Small, Under Secretary for Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said field staff will provide direct assistance to help locals troubleshoot the grant application process.

"It helps connect communities to resources based on that communities' specific needs," Torres Small explained. "To ensure rural communities can access the full array of federal opportunities and resources."

The USDA field staff plans to hire locals who know the region, and assign staff in Washington to represent each region. In addition to New Mexico and its tribal nations, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi are included in the pilot program.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, said in offering the assistance, they have identified communities that have dealt with decades of persistent poverty.

"People, when they think of poverty in this country, I think they immediately think of inner-city poverty," Vilsack pointed out. "But the reality is that there's probably deeper and more persistent poverty in rural areas."

Vilsack said he wants to change what he calls America's "extraction economy," and instead develop a "circular economy," in which wealth is created and stays in rural areas.

"If you think about what we've done in rural America, we basically take things from the land or out of the land or below the land, and we transport them to some other place where value and opportunity is added," Vilsack observed.

The new initiative is a successor to the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity program launched by the Obama administration and also led by Vilsack.


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