WAYNE, W.Va.— In Wayne on Tuesday to attend a USDA StrikeForce forum, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., lauded USDA investments in West Virginia’s economy that buoy farmers and help to build and maintain the state’s public infrastructure and community facilities.
“Today’s USDA leadership is not only a steadfast steward for our farmers and livestock producers, but it also strengthens rural communities with federal dollars – including our police and fire departments, health facilities and hospitals, and especially our water systems. I work hard in Washington to ensure USDA programs are well funded. And our state’s USDA officials work hard to ensure the funds are well invested,” Rahall said.
The USDA StrikeForce forum is one of several being held around the state to raise awareness about USDA programs and solicit public feedback on how to improve their effectiveness. In Southern West Virginia, there are 14 StrikeForce counties eligible for increased USDA assistance, including Cabell, Wayne, Mason, Lincoln, Logan, Boone, Mingo, McDowell, Wyoming, Mercer, Summers, Fayette, Nicholas, and Webster.
Rahall has been a consistent supporter of USDA programs, advocating funding for local foods initiatives and farmers markets and helping veterans to transition into agricultural careers. USDA Rural Development is a primary source of funding for towns and public service districts, which are using USDA funds to extend water service to hundreds of new households in the region.
“These are all recent investments that I am proud to have had a hand in bringing to our state, and anyone who has had to deal with boil-water advisories knows not to take for granted these funds that are helping to modernize our water infrastructure. But it is one heck of a fight in this Congress. I am constantly doing battle against the mindset that overlooks and dismisses the needs of rural communities, and that believes our small communities and farmers should be left to fend for themselves,” the congressman said.
“We have got a good team here, with lots of experience and success in getting things done for our state. I value our partnership,” said Rahall, who attended the event with USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis, USDA State Conservationist Kevin Wickey, and USDA Farm Service Agency District Director Doug Cyphers.
As the top Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rahall also expressed his concern about new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would change the legal definition of “waters of the United States” and expand the agency’s water-permitting jurisdiction. Rahall has been working closely with the committee’s top Republican, Chairman Bill Shuster, in bringing the Congress’s attention and scrutiny to the new rule.
“This EPA rule is a big problem for me and the farmers of our state. Chairman Shuster and I joined forces in moving forward a bill, of which I am a co-sponsor that would prevent the EPA from implementing this terrible new regulation. I am fighting the EPA on this “Waters of the U.S.” rule, just like I am fighting tooth and nail to block its anti-coal rules – you can bet the farm on that,” he said.
Rahall is scheduled to attend another USDA StrikeForce meeting today in Hamlin.