Federal agencies seek to boost rural economy

Obama Administration officials announced three significant actions directed at rural America: expand the government’s purchase of biobased products, promote regional rural job creation efforts, and develop a rural healthcare workforce.

“My Administration is committed to using every tool available to promote economic growth and create good jobs in rural America,” said President Barack Obama. “Today’s announcements reflect our continued focus on expanding opportunity for rural Americans and all Americans, including supporting new and innovative businesses, and improving rural health care and education.”

The bioproducts portion of the announcement is a significant move to examine federal purchasing procedures to ensure the use of bio-based products. With the announcement, the Obama Administration is calling on federal agencies to follow Executive Order 1314, which requires sustainable acquisition goals and milestones to be reported annually and also requires agencies to ensure that 95% of new contracts for products and services advance sustainable acquisition.

Additionally, the announcement directs the Secretary of Agriculture to increase bio-based products in the program by 50% in one year and requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with procurement technical assistance centers to train and assist bio-based companies in taking advantage of opportunities within this program.

“We are very excited about the emphasis that is being placed on bio-based products at a national level,” said Bret Davis, Ohio Soybean Association president and soybean farmer from Delaware County.  “Not only does this encourage use of green products, many of which are made from soybeans, but it will also help increase our energy security and lessen our dependence on foreign oil since many bio-based products replace petroleum-based products.”

Both Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio Soybean Council have long supported the creation of new, green products that utilize soybeans as an ingredient, as well as promotion of these products to both domestic and international markets.

“Creating new uses for our soybeans, and driving demand for those products is an important part of supporting the future of Ohio soybean farmers,”  said John Motter, OSC chairman and soybean farmer from Hancock County.  “Additionally, the growing green industry in Ohio could play a vital role in creating new jobs and increasing our energy independence.”

In addition to the bioproducts portion of the announcement, the Rural Jobs Accelerator will provide about $15 million for projects that promote innovation-fueled regional job creation. The competition will combine funding from the USDA, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Additionally, this approach will require multiple agencies to coordinate technical assistance and grant / loan programs so that potential rural customers have a single access point within the Federal government to mobilize the resources of the government to help a region of the country.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20% by 2016.

 

 

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