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USDA invests $770 million for rural infrastructure projects

The projects aim to enhance internet access, clean water and infrastructure, impacting over 1 million people in rural areas.

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Philip Olson | Pixabay

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled a significant investment of $772.6 million in rural infrastructure projects. Announced by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden in Edgecombe County, N.C., the funding is set to impact more than 1 million people across 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The investment, a part of President Biden's Investing in America agenda, is directed towards 216 projects focusing on high-speed internet, clean drinking water, and modern infrastructure. These projects are designed to spur economic growth in rural communities, with an emphasis on providing high-quality and sustainable plant-based protein alternatives.

The newly funded projects under the Reconnect Program and Broadband Technical Assistance Program include a $51.7 million investment to expand rural high-speed internet access and $9.7 million to assist organizations in 17 states in developing broadband cooperatives. Furthermore, $42 million in grants through the ReConnect Program will enhance internet connectivity in rural Florida, including a significant investment in the Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Inc. and IBT Group USA LLC.

These initiatives complement the USDA's ongoing efforts under the Biden-Harris Administration, which has invested $3.7 billion in 338 ReConnect projects since its inception. Additionally, USDA will begin accepting applications for the fifth round of ReConnect Program funding on March 22, 2024, to further expand rural high-speed internet.

Moreover, the Rural Partners Network Awards will allocate $76.6 million to 32 projects in various states, aiming to provide job access, healthcare, clean water, and renewable energy solutions in underserved rural communities.

Notably, the USDA is also dedicating $644.2 million to assist 158 rural utilities in providing clean drinking water and sanitary wastewater systems, impacting 913,000 people. These investments are part of the larger $5.8 billion effort from the Environmental Protection Agency, as announced by Vice President Harris, to improve water infrastructure.

The USDA's commitment to rural development is further evidenced in its recent report, "Rural America at a Glance," which highlights positive trends in rural population growth, employment, and poverty reduction, partly due to clean energy sector investments.

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