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Heitkamp: Rural Development Critical to Success of North Dakota's Farmers, Ranchers & Growers

August 6, 2014

Senator Brings Together Top USDA Officials, Promotes Nearly $12.8 Billion in Federal Investments to Support North Dakota Agriculture and Rural Communities

WAHPETON, N.D. - U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, today brought together top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials to highlight the importance of rural development and investing in rural communities throughout North Dakota.

Heitkamp also touted the importance of the 2014 Farm Bill, which she helped craft and pass, to supporting economic development in rural communities. And on her Subcommittee, Heitkamp has brought a renewed focus to the Agriculture Committee through a Senate hearing in May on strategies for sparking economic development in rural communities.

"Having grown up in a small town in Richland County, I know how critical and valuable it is to invest in rural communities - the backbone of states like North Dakota," said Heitkamp. "As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee overseeing rural development, I'm always looking for ways to highlight rural economic successes in our state and across the country, and seeking new opportunities to help communities grow. And today's roundtable discussion gave us an opportunity to talk about how targeted investments and initiatives, like those from the 2014 Farm Bill and USDA, can make positive impacts and bolster economic development. When we build on the strengths of rural communities, including many in North Dakota, all of America succeeds."

As part of the Celebrate! Educate! Energize! series honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Richland County Courthouse, Heitkamp brought together Senator John Hoeven, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, USDA Rural Development North Dakota State Director Jasper Schneider, and USDA Rural Development Minnesota State Director Colleen Landkamer. During their discussion, Heitkamp reinforced how the 2014 Farm Bill and USDA have supported rural development in North Dakota, including areas such as Richland County, and how in the Senate she will continue to push for new ways to support growth in rural communities.

The 2014 Farm Bill, which Heitkamp played a leading role in crafting, places a strong emphasis on supporting rural development projects. The bill authorizes programs that help upgrade and improve rural water systems, invests in expanding rural high-speed Internet, funds loans to consumers to improve energy efficiency through the new Rural Energy Savings Program, and reauthorizes several other existing programs that are critical to supporting economic and community development in rural America.

Over the past five years, USDA has invested nearly $12.8 billion in North Dakota to support farmers, ranchers, and growers throughout the state. This includes more than $7 billion to support programs for farmers and ranchers, $2.8 billion for infrastructure development, $1.1 billion to conserve and protect land, water, and air resources, nearly $470 million to promote rural economic development, and more than $209 million to support innovative research.

In May, Heitkamp led a Senate Subcommittee hearing highlighting challenges and proven tactics for sparking economic development in rural America. Heitkamp brought Dawn Keeley of Grafton to testify at the hearing about how good regional strategies can help solve local issues while also preparing communities for growth. USDA Rural Development has played a key role in recent years supporting local North Dakota economies through regional planning. These include: the financing of the $52 millionJamestown Regional Medical Center; major water projects in Emmons, Logan, and McIntosh Counties; and bringing fiber-optic high-speed Internet service to about 16,000 businesses and homes in south central North Dakota.

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Source: Congressional Documents & Publications

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