A handful of important announcements to the nation’s ag and rural communities have come out of the USDA this week.
Extreme drought conditions nationwide reached their lowest point since 2010 — with the most notable improvement being in California. Over the years, drought has had several impacts on California, most notably:
The 5-year drought has caused the deaths of more than 100 million trees — mostly in the central and southern Sierra Nevada.
Row crop acreage in California declined from 4.27 million acres in 2010-12 to 3.23 million acres from 2014-16.
Economic impacts of the California drought are difficult to estimate, but researchers at the University of California estimate that the drought in 2016 alone resulted in resulted in $247 million loss of farm-gate revenues, and 1,815 full and part time jobs.
Illinois and Oklahoma are being targeted for broadband improvements. Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Roger Glendenning said that the USDA is awarding $19.3 million in loans to better serve rural portions of those two states.
“These loans will help bring high-speed internet service to rural communities in downstate Illinois and south-central Oklahoma,” Glendenning said in a news release. “Many rural areas still lack access to the type of reliable, affordable broadband service that can offer better access to jobs, educational, health care and business services.”
Glendenning also announced that the USDA is making loans to electric cooperatives that will help continue to deliver reliable and affordable electricity to rural residents, business and institutions in nine states: Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
“USDA continues to be a partner with cooperatives and utilities to expand and modernize the rural electric grid,” Glendenning said. “These loans represent the latest efforts to create jobs, help grow the rural economy, and support new technology.”
The total value of the loans is $202 million.