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U.S. Agriculture Department to invest $420 million in rural water infrastructure

By Leah Douglas

April 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will put $420 million of funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law toward rehabilitating dams, preventing floods, and restoring watersheds in 31 states, the agency announced Thursday.

The funding is part of a broader, multi-agency effort to provide more technical and financial assistance to rural communities that are facing the increasingly unpredictable and severe effects of climate change with outdated infrastructure.

It will be distributed to 132 projects in the 31 states, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack while traveling in Georgia with White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu and Rep. Sanford Bishop.

"Our watershed programs help communities rebuild after natural disasters and prepare for future events," Vilsack said in a statement. "This includes communities that we’ve historically underserved."

The funded projects will reduce flood risks in Arkansas, improve the efficiency of irrigation canals in Oregon, and upgrade dams in Vermont and Georgia, among other efforts.

USDA and the White House on Wednesday announced a new program, called the Rural Partners Network, that will partner federal agencies with rural communities so underserved regions can more easily access federal funds available through the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure law.

"Just making resources available is not enough — the federal government must work better for rural communities so that they can fully take advantage of these opportunities," said White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice in a statement Wednesday about the launch of the network. (Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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