Rural America faces tremendous uncertainty today. Congress has not yet passed a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and the current extension of 2008 Farm Bill programs will soon expire. Additionally, thus far, no budget has been provided by Congress to continue funding the Federal government past September 30.

Amid this uncertainty, USDA remains focused on our mission and on our work to revitalize the rural economy. We have delivered record investments under President Obama’s leadership, and we will continue working to do so. In a time of reduced resources, we’ve also taken a wide range of new, collaborative approaches with other government agencies—complementing our public-private partnerships and creating better collaboration among state and local partners.

In 2011, President Obama created the White House Rural Council to bring together a number of Federal agencies to focus on rural issues. In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit with members of the Rural Council on progress we’re making, and work with them to lay out ongoing efforts to grow the rural economy.

Today, the White House Rural Council is focused on three main priorities.

First, we’re helping foster innovation and new economic opportunity in rural America, building ladders of opportunity and helping to grow the rural middle class. Rural Council partners have taken steps to increase the flow of capital to help with workforce development and business infrastructure across rural America. For example, a 2013 agreement between USDA and the Small Business Administration is providing $175 million in microloans and business development training to small rural businesses.