BY ARLISA ARMSTRONG
Tennessee USDA Director
I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the state of Tennessee for more than three decades servicing the needs of our rural communities. I have met critical key players in these communities that are passionate about the success of the people living there. I’ve learned that they value the people in the community and work together to voice the needs for crucial resources that will help to repair and improve their cities and towns.
For centuries, rural Americans have been the bedrock of our nation’s economy. Rural America is the source of the food we eat, the water we drink and the energy we use.
Today, rural communities remain the key to our nation’s success.
After decades of disinvestment, President Biden is renewing our commitment to rural America through the Rural Partners Network and other efforts that place rural Americans at the center of our economic rebirth and future.
Last month, senior leaders in the Biden-Harris administration embarked on a one-of-a-kind road trip through rural America to solidify this covenant with the people.
They have been visiting small towns and rural communities all over the country to listen, learn and find out from the people themselves how historic levels of federal funding can best help their communities.
The Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour is part of the effort to refocus the nation’s attention on the value and importance of rural people and places.
Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, USDA is committed to unlocking the full potential of rural communities and doing it on their terms.
The centerpiece of this promise is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a once-in-a-generation investment that will revitalize rural communities and help build our economy from the bottom up and middle out.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will spend billions of dollars to provide high-speed internet, safe roads and bridges, modern wastewater systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good-paying jobs in every rural community. It will help communities recover from and better withstand natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.
These investments will change lives for the better.
Improved roads and bridges will allow emergency responders to get to people faster and save more lives. High-speed internet will ensure rural hospitals can provide a full array of telemedicine services, including vital mental health and substance abuse services. Clean drinking water will give peace of mind to families in rural areas.
The new funding will build on the investments USDA has been making in Tennessee.
• United Communications Inc. received a $1.7 million ReConnect Grant to build approximately 138 miles of fiber to provide speeds of 100 MB downstream and 20 MB upstream to rural subscribers. The project will support more than 1,100 rural subscribers receive FTTH broadband with the approved areas of Vesta, Triune, Gosey Hill, Bethesda, and Petersburg, Tenn.
• The city of Lafayette received a $5 million Water and Waste Disposal Loan to increase the volume of raw water than can be treated at the wastewater treatment plant. The proposed project will increase capacity approximately 33 percent and will allow the city to provide better sewer services to its citizens as well as attract future economic investment.
• Case Enterprises received a $46,321 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for the installation of a 101.25 kw (DC) roof mounted solar PV system for office space usage. Case Enterprises is a small business focused on real estate development projects. This renewable energy improvement will generate 145,357 kwh per year which is enough electricity to power 14 homes.
The Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour is one way we’re helping rural communities access federal resources that make projects like these possible. We want to make it easier for them to know what to request, how to apply and the steps they need to take to receive the new infrastructure funds.
President Biden is building a stronger, more equitable economy that does not leave anyone behind. At USDA, we’re doing our part to reach people that may have been overlooked in the past and have endured the heaviest consequences of decades of disinvestment in America’s infrastructure.
The investments we’re making now will ensure everyone in rural Tennessee has the opportunity to succeed, and that they can find that opportunity right at home — today and for generations to come.