USDA Announced Agreement with Association of Village Council Presidents
At the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an agreement established between the US Department of Agriculture-Rural Development and the Association of Village Council Presidents.
Both groups share similar missions. The USDA-Rural Development aims to improve the economy and quality of life for all rural Alaskans and AVCP’s goals include helping those in rural communities get the aide they need.
USDA-RD Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund says this partnership comes in the midst of massive federal cutbacks—including closing the Dillingham office.
“We have seen significant staff cutbacks due to Congressional cuts but on the other hand we still have pretty good program funding. What we’re trying to do here is continue to provide our services but by reaching out to nonprofit organizations to help us deliver those services.”
AVCP’s region contains nearly 60,000 square miles in Western Alaska. The population of about 25,000 is 85 percent Alaska Native. Nordlund says even with the large number of people living in the area, it’s difficult for the USDA-RD to get much-needed services out there.
“And AVCP is the social service outreach program for that region much the same as the BBNA, the Bristol Bay Native Association is for your area. So if you’re looking for a nonprofit organization to help deliver services, particularly in west Alaska, the best equipped organizations are those Native nonprofit organizations.”
He says he’s hopeful this partnership will enable the USDA-RD to reach out to Western Alaska to provide the residents with the information of all the services available.
“What the USDA-RD does is we do loans, infrastructure loans for rural communities and that includes housing, community facilities, business lending, we also do utilities, telecom, electric, water and sewer. Basically we can help build a community from the ground up.”
The organizations will announce when the partnership will take off in the coming weeks.