The U.S. Department of Agriculture remains focused on carrying out
its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. The
announcement Monday is one part of the department's efforts to
strengthen the rural economy.
"At USDA, we believe it is critical
that communities across the country have reliable, clean and safe
water," Vilsack said. "This Earth Day, I also encourage communities
affected by natural disasters, including those hit hard by Hurricane
Sandy, to apply for funding through the Emergency Community Water
Assistance Grants Program."
In Illinois, communities affected by last year's drought are also
encouraged to seek assistance.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness
about the role each person can play to protect vital natural
resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day
celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include participation
by citizens and governments in more than 195 countries. As part of
the announcement Monday, USDA Rural Development is providing more
than $145.2 million to improve water quality and provide a safe and
healthy environment for rural Americans.
In addition to announcing new investments, USDA is highlighting
Earth Day projects that are completed or near completion. In
Illinois, Moores Prairie Township Water Company in Jefferson County
is celebrating as some of its 71 users begin to see clear, clean
water emerge from their faucets.
Prior to the completion of this project, residents and farms in
the township used a combination of shallow wells, deep wells,
cisterns and purchased water to provide their water supply. When
residents realized that their dependency upon private water cisterns
represented a serious threat to their health and safety, they
reached out to USDA Rural Development, which provided a $318,000
low-interest loan for 40 years and a grant of $821,200 to help fund
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"There is nothing more basic to our future than water. It is
vital in the communities where we live, work, play and plan. Today I
congratulate Moores Prairie Township for planning for the future,"
said Colleen Callahan, Illinois director for USDA Rural Development.
"This project exemplifies hard work and perseverance. We are proud
to honor such a successful project this Earth Day."
For more information on USDA Water and Environmental Programs,
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active
portfolio of more than $181 billion in 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.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the
American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the
across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the
Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts
since 2009 to save more than $700 million in taxpayer funds through
targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put
USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while
implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that
causes as little disruption as possible.
[Text from file received from
USDA Rural Development, Illinois]