ABINGDON, Va., Nov. 12, 2010 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The MOU is intended to create a stronger and more diversified Appalachian economy and create jobs through strategic Federal, state and local collaboration.
"The families, businesses and communities of the Appalachian Region deserve a government that is unified and committed to improving the economic opportunity and quality of life for everyone," said Merrigan. "Today, we are reaffirming that commitment, with a special focus on economic development and job creation."
During the announcement ceremony, Merrigan highlighted that USDA has been working over the last 10 months with ARC to conduct a series of listening sessions to seek input from local stakeholders. One of the primary outcomes of the comments received was that citizens were concerned about the shortage of regional economic development strategies and the lack of coordination by Federal, State, and local agencies to address challenges. Other Federal signers include the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration.
The MOU will provide the framework for more strategic collaboration. In signing the MOU, USDA will:
a) Commit one representative to an Interagency Coordinating Council (Council) on Appalachia;
b) Commit local senior agency representatives to three regional steering committees covering each of Northern, Central, and Southern Appalachia. The steering committees will be responsible for coordinating Federal activities in each sub-region and making policy recommendations to the Council;
c) Support the Council's efforts to develop a strategy to further the purposes of the Appalachian Regional Development Act. As part of this effort, the Council will work with participating agencies to gather information on prior year funding in Appalachia. In addition, the Council will work with agencies to identify challenges encountered in their work in Appalachia and help formulate mitigating strategies;
d) Collaborate with States, local governments, and regional stakeholders, as appropriate, to develop strategic initiatives and partnerships to pursue particular goals developed through this initiative;
e) Participate in a Federal technical assistance outreach initiative across Appalachia to better inform citizens on how to access Federal grant assistance programs;
f) Collaborate with a Federal Advisory Board to assess demographic, economic, and natural resource trends in the Appalachian Region and identify issues where additional Federal attention is needed to support community and regional development efforts; and
g) Actively seek opportunities, as appropriate, to collaborate with other Federal agencies to support activities and investments in Appalachia related to the goals of this Memorandum.
For a copy of the MOU, click here. Additional information on the MOU and USDA's participation, contact any USDA Rural Development office in the Appalachian Region.
USDA Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of 6,100 employees and nearly 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers, and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $142 billion in loans and loan guarantees.