Having spent most of my life in and around rural communities, I know firsthand the challenges that many rural communities have faced.
My parents, who were both educators, left school every day to come home to take care of our small family farm, because they loved the land and they understood the importance of planting and watering the land for may it produce good crops.
Because of these early experiences and the parents who shaped the call to service, I have never forgotten my rural roots and have dedicated my life’s work to the betterment of rural communities using any platform that I had to raise the voice of all those who live in rural areas.
In my current role as State Director of Rural Development for South Carolina for just over six months, I am confident that our best days are indeed ahead of us as we renew our commitment to improving the rural economy and the overall quality of life in our rural communities.
Recently, President Biden used his first State of the Union address to talk about where our country has been and where we are going.
The president mentioned a lot of things we can be proud of and even more to look forward to, especially in rural America.
The country has faced profound challenges over the past year, and the people of rural America know it better than anyone.
But rural communities are resilient, and as the success of rural America goes, so does the rest of the country.
That’s why the progress we’ve made in rural South Carolina over the past year is a good sign for everyone. By investing in water and broadband infrastructure, rural business opportunities, and America’s food supply chain, USDA helps communities build the foundation for sustained economic growth.
For example, the Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority received 19 loans totaling over $66 million and nine grants totaling over $20 million.
The Water and Sewer Authority’s most recent project is Phase II of the Holley Ferry/Spann Road water improvements.
For this project, the Water and Sewer Authority will receive a $15.4 million loan and $2.5 million Water and Environment Programs (WEP) grant to position a network of water pipes in the densely populated eastern part of Saluda County. The Holley Ferry Phase II project will allow a significant expansion of the residential clientele.
It is conservatively estimated that 300 additional households will benefit. However, there are over 700 homes along the proposed waterlines, so there could be a lot more listings.
Considering that SCWSA has approximately 1,300 residential customers, this represents a significant increase in customer numbers. Additionally, this project has the potential to provide water connections to nearby towns. This could transform SCWSA from a local water supplier to a regional supplier.
Orangeburg County received two loans totaling $3.6 million and two grants totaling $2.3 million for water projects.
In addition, the county received four loans totaling $10.5 million and four grants totaling $8.1 million for sewer projects.
Most recently, Orangeburg County’s Goodbys Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and Improvements received a $6.7 million WEP loan and a $1.9 million WEP grant.
This project provided needed wastewater treatment to the rural town and areas of Orangeburg County. The county proposed to construct a sewage treatment plant, which would provide sewer service to residential areas and commercial users along US Highway 301, in the City of Santee, Matthews Industrial Park, and Jafza Industries.
Through the Food Supply Chain Secured Loan Program and the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program, we are responding to the President’s call to create more resilient, diverse and sustainable supply chains. sure. Promoting competition in the processing sector will mean fairer prices for farmers, greater value for workers, and more affordable, healthier food produced closer to home for families.
These investments create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. They help grow the economy from the bottom up and from the middle as the president said. And they contribute to a circular economy where the resources and wealth we build in rural South Carolina stays right here in South Carolina.
In the State of the Union, President Biden has pledged to build a nationwide network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin replacing toxic lead pipes — so that every child — and every American — have clean water to drink at home and at school, to provide affordable high-speed Internet service for every American – urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.
Under the landmark bipartisan Infrastructure Act, USDA Rural Development will be able to fund the ReConnect program, which will help roll out broadband to rural areas and underserved communities. We will also work in partnership with other agencies in a coordinated state-level effort to rebuild rural America.
The Biden-Harris administration’s plan for the economy is already producing historic wins, and anyone can participate, regardless of zip code.
That’s why we’re optimistic that our best days are ahead of us.
By giving everyone a fair chance and providing equitable access to federal resources, we can do our part to realize the President’s economic vision. That means making more stuff right here at home, strengthening our supply chains, and lowering costs for working families. It means giving people the opportunity to earn a good living without having to leave the communities they know and love.
For many of us, that means staying here in rural South Carolina.
Dr. Saundra Glover is the South Carolina State Director for Rural Development for the USDA.