WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Obama administration Tuesday told U.S. government departments and agencies to increase purchases of "biobased" products made from renewable materials.
The White House said in a news release the 50-percent increase in purchases of such products -- including paints, soaps and detergents made from plants and other renewable agricultural materials -- over the next two years would create jobs and foster innovation.
"The biobased products sector marries the two most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing," the news release said.
The White House also announced a national competition that will provide about $15 million for projects that promote "innovation-fueled regional job creation" in rural areas. The program is also designed to create a single access point in the federal government for people to receive technical assistance, grants and loans.
A third initiative announced Tuesday will connect community and technical colleges serving rural areas with resources to support training of health-information technology professionals to work in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for such professionals will increase by 20 percent by 2016.
"My administration is committed to using every tool available to promote economic growth and create good jobs in rural America," Obama said in the news release. "Today's announcements reflect our continued focus on expanding opportunity for rural Americans and all Americans, including supporting new and innovative businesses and improving rural health care and education."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release the efforts announced Tuesday "will bring new economic investments to our rural communities, to ensure the people who live in these towns have a better, brighter future."