DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s focus has traditionally been on food production, agriculture and natural resources but under the administration of President Barack Obama the USDA also has taken on a broader rural economic development role.
The agency has funded energy projects, small business loans, upgrades to power lines and high speed internet.
Some don’t consider financial support for such rural development projects to be among the agency’s fundamental roles but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack disagrees.
Vilsack is now promoting newly available funding of up to $800,000 to support farmers markets and other local food initiatives.
The USDA since 2009 has invested $800 million in more than 29,000 local and regional food projects including investments in 1,000 local food projects in Iowa and 617 in Nebraska.