May 03, 2007

CRAPO: RURAL DEVELOPMENT MAINTAINSRURAL COMPETITIVENESS

Senator cites infrastructure, economic gains under USDA-RD program

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo says many rural Idahoans are competing in the world market just like their city cousins, thanks in part to the federal USDA Rural Development Program. Crapo, who is Ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit, praised the efforts of the USDA Rural Development Program, which came under fire recently following media reports that some funding from the program was spent in affluent areas."The Rural Development Program has been paramount in keeping rural Idahoans, and rural Americans, on an economic footing with residents of larger cities," Crapo said. "Funding to improve aging water and sewer systems and to bring broadband technology to rural communities is critical to the economic vitality of rural America in a global marketplace."Crapo said reports that affluent areas received funding under the program failed to note those communities had small populations which qualified them for rural status under program guidelines. He said loans to those areas may create misperceptions, but noted such loans are the exception, not the rule of what USDA Rural Development funds."Many of these programs are loans and grants to repair and replace water systems that keep a town's economic and personal health standards high," Crapo said. "A town without connections to the Internet will have a harder time drawing investment. Programs like these bring telemedicine to places where patients may be a hundred miles from the nearest doctor. From Bonners Ferry to Rexburg, dozens of Idaho communities have benefited from the USDA Rural Development Program."USDA Rural Development spent $106 million in Idaho during Fiscal Year 2006 on projects including wind power development, buildings housing Head Start programs for children and affordable housing programs. Crapo partnered with USDA Rural Development in the past to announce business improvements on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, health care improvements in Ashton, broadband service across North Idaho, and dozens of water and wastewater improvements statewide. "We want to thank the Senator for his support and interest in the social and economic well being of rural communities in Idaho," said Mike Field, USDA Rural Development State Director. "Rural Development stands with the Senator in partnering with State, Local and Tribal Governments as well as many private entities in strengthening rural Idaho."