Portland, Oregon, Jun 04, 2012 -- By Vicki L.
Too often in our discourse, I hear a refrain about the "two
Oregons": downtown vs. down on the farm; hubs of activity
compared to the laid-back boondocks; or worse, the concept
that urban centers of commerce are somehow compensating for
their country cousins.
I completely reject such notions. Not only does rural Oregon
embody the core values that make Oregon a fantastic place to
live, but it's also critical to recognize how our
metropolitan populations rely on their "provincial" partners.
Our rural communities develop and sustain the resources,
conditions, and quality of life that allow for the success of
many sectors, such as green industry, technology,
manufacturing, local and exported food, and recreation. It's
also important to recognize that the proximity of well-tended
rural landscapes have attracted a talented, skilled and
creative workforce to the state overall. Simply put, what
goes on in the countryside often creates opportunity within
Oregon's urban communities.
In these, and many other ways, rural and urban Oregon are
mutually dependent, and our economic fates, no matter where
we live and work, intertwine. In fact, scholars at Oregon
State University have done significant work to document the
many nuanced facets of this interdependence, as described in
Toward One Oregon, published by OSU Press in 2011.
This inter-reliance, however, adds to the complexity of
Oregon's urban-rural relationships. Translating them into
economic success requires certain conditions and, sometimes,
a little help. That's why the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) works to strengthen the linkages and
functions between rural and urban economic structures through
a number of our less familiar policies and programs designed
to assist rural communities and businesses. Such efforts
contribute to ensuring stable economies and quality of life
for all Americans, and we've been doing it for a very long
time. In fact, this year marks USDA's 150th anniversary.
In 1862, President Lincoln created the Department of
Agriculture with a basic mission "to acquire and diffuse
among the people of the United States useful information on
subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and
comprehensive sense of the word." Over the following decades,
America's economy became less centered on farming, alone. As
this occurred, USDA's work expanded to include a complete
range of rural economic drivers.
Today's USDA, consistent with President Obama's vision for a
strong rural economy, is a leader in across-the-board efforts
to create an environment of rural success and prosperity.
USDA's Rural Development mission area promotes economic
development in a holistic manner by ensuring access to the
rural housing, public facilities, services and infrastructure
needed to support modern commerce and productive communities.
We offer affordable loans to residents, communities and
entrepreneurs when traditional financing is unavailable or
not affordable. In addition to agriculture, we work with
manufacturers, housing providers, the health care industry,
cooperatives, renewable energy producers, and every sort of
utility. We partner with communities to improve water and
waste systems, collaborate with business groups to support
industry clusters, support modern technologies like broadband
and telemedicine, fund technical assistance and workforce
development in cooperation with community colleges, and
enhance local and regional planning efforts. In partnership
with all of these sectors, USDA is helping rural communities
become and remain full players in the Oregon economy as well
as the global economy.
Because we are so strongly rooted in the vast arena of rural
development, USDA is one of the most comprehensive and vital
organizations within the federal government. A century and a
half ago, the Department's focus was tightly on agriculture.
As the nation has grown and evolved, so have we. Our modern,
integrated program delivery now helps meet the needs of a
rapidly evolving rural economic landscape that encompasses
business development, international trade, modern housing
development, productive agriculture, disaster response,
natural resource conservation, food safety and security, as
well as the infrastructure needed to support it all.
This is not Abe Lincoln's USDA. As I believe he intended,
however, and in keeping with President Obama's agenda to
create new jobs in rural America, today's USDA remains true
to the goal of ensuring healthy, vital communities and
opportunities to prosper for all Americans and all
Oregonians, both rural and urban.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits
discrimination in all of its programs and activities on the
basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and
where applicable, sex (including gender identity and
expression), marital status, familial status, parental
status, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs,
genetic information, reprisal, or because all or part of an
individual's income is derived from any public assistance
program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for
communication of program information (Braille, large print,
audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at
(202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).