This week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provided highlights of USDA Rural Development fiscal year 2011 investments in job-creating businesses, infrastructure and housing for Americans living in rural communities across the nation.

According to estimates, Rural Development investments created or saved about 440,000 jobs last year.

"The Obama Administration is focused on putting people back to work and putting money back into the pockets of working Americans," Vilsack said in a news release. "At USDA we are partnering with businesses, non-profits, cooperatives, Tribes and local governments to do our part to stimulate economic activity and create an environment that grows jobs in rural communities."

Highlights of the Rural Development in the federal fiscal year that ended on September 30 included

  • Providing 2,000 rural businesses, farmers and ranchers with Rural Energy for America grants for up to 25 percent  of the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects
  • Funding renewable energy projects
  • Providing more than 800 direct loans to help small communities install or upgrade water systems, dispose of waste and upgrade landfills
  • Offering direct loans to upgrade education facilities, emergency services and hospitals
  • Assisting more than 1,000 small businesses by provided $63 million in direct loans to help local organizations capitalize self-renewing revolving loan funds
  • Providing housing opportunities for more than 143,000 families
  • Upgrading community facilities
  • Boosting electric grid reliability
  • Bringing affordable, reliable Internet service to rural homes
  • Helping more than 130,000 families secure affordable home financing through private lenders
  • Helping more than 13,500 lower-income families purchase or repair homes on affordable terms through direct housing loans

Secretary Vilsack noted that the agency's cost of doing business is less than two cents for every dollar invested in the future of rural communities.

Last year, USDA Rural Development continued to streamline service delivery and cut regulations that stifle job creation. The agency is also engaged in ongoing White House Rural Council roundtable meetings with business and community leaders to hear their ideas on how to grow the economy.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $155 billion in affordable loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.