Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announces the selection of Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants totaling more than $24.6 million, providing greater educational opportunities and medical service to rural residents in 45 states and two U.S. territories.

"The Bush Administration is committed to supporting rural communities by investing in technology," says Veneman. "These grants will help expand the availability of state of the art medical and educational resources to rural families."

In total, 40 distance education grants for $17.1 million, and 22 telemedicine grants for more than $7.5 million were selected for funding. The education projects will help schools provide students with educational tools to better equip them for the global digital economy. Additionally, rural residents will have access to better, faster and more modern health care through medical service facilities. A complete list of the selected grant recipients can be found at the USDA Rural Development web site at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov

"Information technology is critical to rural Americans. It significantly improves the quality of their health care and their ability to gain access to educational programs that better prepare them to compete in a global marketplace," says Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Gilbert Gonzalez.

A great example of the benefits of this program is the Central Consolidated School District #22 in San Juan County, New Mexico covering 5,514 square miles with 3,229 students in seven schools. They will utilize this funding to provide expanded course offerings and provide higher education opportunities for their students and provide professional development for the residents of the communities.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to deliver programs in a way that will support increasing economic opportunity and improve the quality of life of rural residents. USDA Rural Development provides equity and technical assistance to finance and foster growth in homeownership, business development, and critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/.