Growing the Rural Made Economy
—by Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From biobased products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.
As part of our commitment to strengthening rural economies, USDA this week released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” factsheets. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America.
USDA has created employment opportunities in rural America through investments in rural businesses, many of which are small. In rural America, small businesses support one in three jobs. At the same time, USDA’s loans and grants have helped to support reliable services like water, housing and broadband to make these same communities attract and retain a talented workforce. Collectively, these investments support the businesses and families that call America’s rural areas “home.”
The factsheets showcase some of the innovative businesses at work in rural areas across the country. For example, Smude’s Natural Sunflower Oil in Pierz, Minnesota, produces cold-pressed sunflower oil. With support from USDA, the company now processes 30,000 bushels of sunflower seeds each year and produces several thousand gallons of food-grade, cold-processed sunflower oil. Smude’s products can be found in over 100 retail stores and restaurants throughout Minnesota and the owners are now working to become the country’s first national distributor of food-grade, cold-pressed sunflower oil.
And in Oregon, a USDA grant has supported the non-profit Sustainable Northwest as they find new uses for Western juniper wood. Western juniper has outgrown its natural range in central and eastern Oregon, and is threatening ecosystem health. Sustainable Northwest is using a USDA grant to market the naturally rot-resistant Western juniper wood as an alternative to pressure-treated wood. Making it marketable will create jobs in Oregon’s timber and forest product industries while supporting ecosystem restoration.
These are just a few example of what investments in rural America can mean in real terms for families and businesses across the country. To see how rural businesses support a strong economy in your state, visit www.usda.gov/opportunities.