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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Rural Development (USDA-RD) during a budget hearing on Wednesday for supporting the bipartisan initiative SOAR - Shaping Our Appalachian Region. In response to a devastating downturn in the Appalachian coal industry, Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear (D-KY) launched the non-profit organization in 2013 to help diversify the economy, create jobs and enhance innovative opportunities in Kentucky's Appalachian region.

"From the beginning of the SOAR initiative, USDA Rural Development has stepped up to the plate and served as a major partner," said Rogers, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "I truly appreciate your engagement with SOAR and I look forward to working with you as we strive to strengthen and grow the economy in that region."

Rogers also urged USDA-RD to maintain steady funding for the agency's Mutual and Self Help Housing program that provides low-income families with a way to build their own homes. The agency proposed a nearly $18 million cut to the program for 2016. Similar cuts to the program have been rejected by Congress in recent years.

"This year, the fifty thousandth family will have utilized the program to complete their home," said Rogers. "One constituent of mine, a single woman with a son, wanted a safe environment for her son. She worked nights and weekends so she could build her own home. Now that she's moved in, her son is doing much better in school, they have a nice home in which they can call their own. Without the Self Help Housing program allowing her to use her own sweat equity, she wouldn't have been able to afford that new home. Those are victories."

Rogers also expressed his disappointment in the President's proposal to reduce funding by $162 million in Business and Industry Loan Authorization. The program guarantees loans for rural businesses, which allows private lenders to provide more affordable financing in rural areas.

"This program opens doors for the creation of new jobs through new company development and small business expansion, and is more important than ever in my region because of the struggling economy," said Rogers. "Rural areas need more, not less, of this type of program to encourage small businesses to expand and create more jobs."

Click here to watch the USDA-RD budget hearing for fiscal year 2016

(NOTE: Rogers' opening statement begins at 12:00 and questioning begins at 22:00)

Rogers has served Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia’s natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit or follow Rogers on Twitter or on Facebook.