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USDA seeks ideas across the country to create more jobs

By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
Illinois Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the USDA is hosting a series of roundtables and community forums on job creation and economic growth throughout the country. The roundtables follow the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth that President Obama hosted at the White House on Dec. 3.

A Midwest forum – for residents of Iowa, Missouri and Illinois – is scheduled for 1-3 p.m., Jan. 9, at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, located at 315 Chestnut Street in St. Louis. The forum is in conjunction with the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.

The forum is free and open to the public. No credentials are needed.

“President Obama has asked USDA and other federal agencies to listen to communities across the country to generate ideas to create jobs and economic opportunities,” Vilsack said. “USDA, which has offices serving every county in the nation, is taking the lead on having these conversations about job creation that will hopefully spur innovation, creativity and job creation that can help our communities to become stronger and more vibrant.”

The roundtables will be hosted by USDA Rural Development state directors and Farm Service Agency state executive directors.
Participants will include business owners, community members, state and local officials, union members, nonprofit organizations, economists and other interested parties. Participants will discuss steps that can to be taken to grow the economy and put Americans back to work.

Some of the roundtables may be regional in order to focus on shared interests, economic conditions and cooperative solutions. The primary focus will be on ideas to accelerate job growth in rural America.

Some of the topics to be discussed are: exploring ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses; creating jobs by rebuilding America’s infrastructure; creating new opportunities from existing ones, such as with value-added agricultural products; supporting job growth among small businesses; and preparing workers for 21st century jobs.

“We want to hear from you,” said Colleen Callahan, Illinois state director for USDA Rural Development.

“Let us know what you need to ensure the future of your community. Your contributions can help to shape the future of rural America,” she added.

She said visitors are invited to talk about what’s working in their communities and what’s not, how to rejuvenate and support local businesses, specific changes that can make USDA programs and regulations more helpful and other ideas and issues the President should consider for improving the rural economy.

Other forums scheduled include North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota on Jan. 6; Nebraska, Jan. 8; Tennessee, Jan. 14; Kansas, Jan. 21; Puerto Rico, Jan. 22; Vermont, Feb. 3 and New Hampshire, Feb. 4. Additional forums will be scheduled in the weeks ahead. To learn more, visit www.rurdev.usda or call 202-690-0498.

USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices.
According to the USDA, these programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, farms and ranches and improve the quality of life in rural America.

1/6/2010