Stops Thursday in Salt Lake City and in Cache Valley by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan were aimed at highlighting Recovery Act funding in Utah. “It’s been a little over a year since this act was signed by Congress and we’re getting around the country to see how we are doing in creating jobs. It’s about jobs and I’m here in Utah to put on a hard hat and see how we’re doing.” The Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City was her first stop. “One of the things the Recovery Act has done is increase SNAP benefits by $80 more a month for a family of four, if they are SNAP beneficiaries. (That is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.) Merrigan said the Recovery Act also provides more funding for food banks and food commodity purchases for food banks. Thursday afternoon she toured the Cache Valley Community Health Center construction site in North Logan. “It’s a great project,” said Dr. Merrigan, “and clearly a great community need. It got to the top of the list pretty quickly and now things are well underway. Ultimately we know this will become an important development for the community.” In a final stop, on the Utah State University campus, Merrigan spoke at the Eccles Conference Center about the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. “I talk about the building of local and regional food systems as a rural economic development strategy,” said she. “We ask young people about where they see themselves in the future of American agriculture with a farmer-rancher population that averages in age at 57. The question to the younger people is ‘Do you see a place for yourself in the future of American agriculture?’ Then I outline some opportunities for them.” Merrigan said as she travels around to see AARA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) projects, she is seeing great things. “We realize that our economy grew 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, the largest gain in the last six years. Things seem to be turning around. I’m here to talk to people.”
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