Commentary: Millions of jobs supported by rural America

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Every day I am reminded of the many ways in which the work of rural America impacts all of us. Rural America provides us with a clean environment, opportunities to get outdoors, greater energy security, and a safe and abundant food supply that’s the envy of the world. From our smallest towns to our biggest cities, work ongoing today in rural America has a tremendously positive effect for the United States.

Perhaps most important, rural America is driving job growth across our nation.

Last year, the agriculture sector and its related industries directly provided more than 16 million American jobs, the highest number since 2008. Many of these jobs are in rural America – while other agriculture-related jobs, from food manufacturing to textile work, are supporting millions of families in our cities.

The productivity of our agriculture industry also allows America to remain food secure, while exporting more goods around the world and supporting jobs here at home. The latest agricultural trade forecast released this week continues an astonishing trend for American farm exports that began in 2009. Since that year, we’ve seen U.S. agricultural exports climb more than 50 percent in value – and agricultural exports continue to support more than a million jobs.

All told, one in 12 U.S. jobs today are supported by American agriculture.

Meanwhile, renewable energy continues to take hold across our nation. Today, renewable energy efforts support more than one million American jobs. More than 400,000 of these jobs are in the biofuels industry, which is based in rural America and holds great potential to create even more opportunity.

Outdoor recreation brought more than $145 billion in economic benefits to the U.S. last year and supported hundreds of thousands of jobs. Visitors to America’s National Forests alone support more than 200,000 jobs annually in nearby communities.

At USDA, we will also continue our record efforts to support rural communities and businesses in creating jobs. For example, since 2009, USDA has made nearly 60,000 loans and grants to help rural businesses grow. The economic benefits from these efforts have saved or created an estimated 300,000 jobs. Meanwhile, by helping nearly 600,000 American families buy or refinance a home since 2009, USDA has generated economic benefits that support an estimated 250,000 jobs. We are always working to do more.

Rural America does so much for all of us, every day. Our small towns and rural communities continue to drive America’s economy forward, supporting industries that are responsible for a high proportion of U.S. jobs. I know that in the months to come, we can continue supporting good jobs for Americans while further strengthening the rural economy.



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