U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announces $772 million in new rural infrastructure projects at ENC town hall

TARBORO, N.C. (WITN) – The U.S. secretary of agriculture is in Eastern Carolina today, speaking to leaders on how to help grow rural communities.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, and Congressman Don Davis were at Edgecombe Community College in Tarboro on Wednesday where they hosted an Investing in Rural America Town Hall.

“This was also an opportunity to educate and provide information to people so they know there’s a program designed to link farmers to local market opportunities,” Vilsack said.

During the town hall, Vilsack and Tanden announced that the USDA is investing $772.6 million to fund 216 projects that will benefit more than 1 million people living in remote areas of the country by providing reliable high-speed internet access, clean, safe water, and a wide range of support for rural families, agricultural producers, and small businesses.

“These investments are really about opportunity and ensure opportunity in every corner of the country, especially here in the Eastern North Carolina,” Tanden said.

Congressman Davis harped on the importance of using the investment to help mold the next generation of farmers in the east.

“When we talk in particular about young people, I believe that we have to continue to show them they can make it in agriculture,” Davis said. “We need young people.”

The investment will fund 216 projects in 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Today’s announcement comes just months after USDA announced a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to equip 10 telemedicine stations throughout Edgecombe County.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is transforming our country for the better – reaching communities in every corner of the United States, including those that have too often been left behind,” Secretary Vilsack said. “The investments I’m announcing today will help us build our economy from the middle out and bottom-up by bringing high-speed internet, clean water, modern infrastructure and good-paying jobs to communities in rural areas, in turn making it more possible for young people to build a good life in the communities they love, and for more Americans to find new opportunity in rural communities.”

This is a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s fourth Investing in America Tour and kicks off the new Investing in Rural America Regional Event Services that officials say will continue throughout this year.

For a full list of rural broadband program improvements, and program and application requirements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.