DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- With a new year, Iowa has new agriculture leaders selected by the USDA and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Annette Sweeney is the new Iowa Director for Rural Development and has been on the job for nearly two months now.
She is a row crop and cow-calf farmer and lives near Buckeye, Iowa. She also served as an Iowa State Representative from 2009 to 2012 and was the Chair of the Iowa House Agriculture Committee.
She says she believes in Iowa's rural areas, "I believe in what rural America brings to the workforce, brings to innovation, and brings to people who want to be entrepreneurs. And we have a basket of that here in the state of Iowa. And so my background brings that and also the knowledge of how we can connect and be collaborative with one another to bring forward that innovation."
Sweeney says Rural Development offices across the nation are focusing on infrastructure, partnership, and innovation.
A few of Sweeney's specific priorities are helping solve wastewater and drinking water problems, improving broadband access across the state, and helping rural hospitals and healthcare. She was recently at the Shenandoah Medical Center, which is expanding and renovating with a $25 million loan from USDA Rural Development.
Sweeney says a lot of people talked to her at that visit, "And said, we're so glad you're here. And one veteran even had tears in his eyes saying, 'Thank goodness we have a rural hospital because I have people I know taking care of me.'"
The Iowa Rural Development office wants to engage and help state communities.
You can give them a call at 515-284-4663 or look over their website at www.rd.usda.gov/ia.