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News Release

USDA Highlights Impact of Recovery Act on Rural America

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Feb. 17, 2010 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted the successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). One year after the passage of ARRA, evidence is clear – and growing by the day – that the Recovery Act is working to cushion the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and lay a new foundation for economic growth.

"President Obama’s Recovery Act has helped create jobs and lay a new foundation for economic growth during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  “USDA has used Recovery Act funding to create badly-needed jobs and stimulate local economies, help farmers and rural businesses make it through tough times, ensure that struggling families can put food on the table, and build and revitalize critical infrastructure in rural communities across America.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff in Arkansas has been making steady progress on more than $4.6 million worth of projects in Arkansas funded through ARRA.

“The funding is being used to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitat in several locations around the state,” said Michael E. Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist. “Arkansas received money for watershed rehabilitation, watershed operations and emergency watershed program-floodplain easements.”

Arkansas’s projects include:

  • A $1.5 million flood control structure rehabilitation project in Scott County is designed to provide added flood prevention for the city of Waldron.

"The rehabilitation work will extend the service life of the structure another 100 years allowing it to continue to provide flood prevention benefits and meet current safety requirements," Sullivan said. The Poteau River Multipurpose Dam No. 5 and reservoir is the city’s primary source of water for approximately 4,000 people in a 17-square-mile area. The dam, approximately 47-feet high, is located on the East Fork of the Poteau River about 3.5 miles northeast of Waldron.

“I anticipate in the next week the project sponsor, the City of Waldron, will finalize the purchase of one parcel of ground and the land rights will be certified,” said Walt Delp, NRCS’s state engineer for Arkansas. “The contract should be advertised the first week of March and construction should begin sometime in May, with a projected completion date in November.”

  • Arkansas received $134,000 for repairs to the Upper Petit Jean Watershed Site No. 9 project. The 310-acre reservoir in Logan County provides flood control for 19,872 acres and water supply for the city of Booneville.

“Three stress cracks have developed in the transition between the principal spillway inlet structure and outlet pipe,” said State Conservationist Sullivan. “The cracks pose no immediate threats, but we’re concerned the steel in the reinforced concrete might corrode over time.” The work will entail using a chemical grout to seal and bond the full depth of each crack. Work on this project has been hampered by Arkansas’s record rainfall in 2009.

“We awarded the contract in August and the contractor moved on site in September,” Delp said. “But, heavy rains shutdown the work shortly afterward. The actual repair work is being done inside the riser and principal spillway. On Feb. 10, there was six inches of water flowing over the riser’s weir preventing any work from being done inside the riser. Once the lake level goes down it should only take two days for the contractor to complete the work.”

  • Eight easements were chosen in Arkansas on more than 3,470 acres in Arkansas, Clay, Jefferson, Phillips, Prairie, Pulaski and Yell counties. More than $2.97 million have been spent on purchasing the easements to restore flood-prone areas to their natural state. Restoration of these sites is expected to cost almost $400,000.

“We enrolled land with the greatest benefit to protect against future floods, improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and reduce the need for future disaster assistance,” Sullivan said. “The eight easements selected in Arkansas will help restore the natural functions of the floodplain they are found in. This will be accomplished by converting cropland often damaged by flooding to permanent native vegetation and restoring natural topography to the 3,470 acres in these easements.”

Since the Recovery Act was signed into law a year ago, USDA has moved quickly to get dollars out the door.  Aside from funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is allocated on a mandatory basis each month, USDA has announced the vast majority of its remaining $7.9 billion to support more than 90,000 grants, loans, and other job-creating projects. In the first year implementing the Recovery Act, USDA has:

  • Provided over $100 billion in tax relief for American businesses and families, including tax cuts for 95 percent of working families through the Making Work Pay Tax Credit.  And tax relief is expected to nearly double in the coming months.
  • Helped over 38 million Americans who need food assistance by providing an average increase in benefits of $80 per month to low-income households of four.  This funding is a fast-acting economic stimulus as every $1 in food benefits generates up to $1.84 in total economic activity, supporting jobs at all levels of the food chain.
  • Helped 85,420 rural Americans purchase or repair their homes with affordable loans while simultaneously stimulating the economy, and creating jobs in the construction and real estate sectors.
  • Helped create private sector jobs protecting rural communities from large wildfires, while improving the health of our forests, water and air resources.  We provided $500 million to treat over 134,000 acres of forest to reduce the risk of wildfire.
  • Provided 2,636 loans to farmers and ranchers to help them purchase the farm equipment, feed, seed, and fuel they needed to keep their farms operating and support jobs in the rural economy.  Approximately half of these loans went to beginning farmers and 25% to socially disadvantaged farmers.
  • Created green jobs at plants that use wood from forest restoration activities to generate renewable energy.  Grants worth $50 million went to projects that will power 223,000 homes.
  • Helped more than 5,000 schools purchase equipment to improve the safe and healthy meals they serve to children. 

In the coming months, USDA will be implementing additional programs and projects as weather begins to thaw, and construction projects are expected to break ground across the country.  In 2010, USDA will continue to invest in projects to help get Americans and the economy back to work:

  • By bringing broadband internet to an estimated 1.2 million households, 230,000 businesses, and 7,800 anchor institutions like hospitals and schools across rural America, in one largest job generating efforts to date.  This $3.4 billion investment will give businesses access to global markets and spur rural economic development. 
  • By helping 300 rural businesses grow, innovate and create jobs, providing $900 million on top of $570 million already at work helping 160 businesses across the country.
  • With the construction and improvement of hundreds of community facilities, such as police and fire stations, and libraries in rural America.  We will improve access to health care for 3 million rural residents, and educational services for 2.5 million residents. We will provide nearly $750 million on top of $470 million already announced for more than 850 projects. 
  • By constructing and rebuilding water and waste water systems in more than 200 communities affecting 1 million rural Americans.  We will provide nearly $1 billion on top of more than $2 billion already announced for projects in 530 communities. 

More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery.