Federal funding released to strengthen rural communities
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 43 organizations in 27 states for grants and loans to help create jobs and boost economic development activity in rural areas. The announcement culminates a week in which the department has been highlighting products that are Made In Rural America.
"Many rural businesses and organizations are succeeding but with access to additional resources can create more jobs, promote growth and create an environment where more products can be made in rural America," Vilsack said. "The awards we are announcing today will not only provide funding, but they also will provide the critical training and technical assistance rural cooperatives and non-profit groups need to enhance the work they are doing to strengthen America's Main Street businesses."
The funding is being provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program and the Intermediary Relending Program. Vilsack announced $5.8 million in RCDG awards to 32 recipients, and just over $7 million in loans to 11 recipients under USDA's Intermediary Relending Program. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.
Rural Cooperative Development Grants are being awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions. The recipients will use the funds to operate centers to develop or expand rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. The funding can be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, offer technical assistance, establish low-interest loans, and help rural businesses develop new markets for their products and services.
Today's announcement of RCDG recipients includes several who are developing new opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on the fast-growing market for locally produced food.
For example, the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability will receive a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help meat processing cooperatives link producers with local and regional consumers. Funding will also be used to provide education and training. The Cooperative Network in Wisconsin is receiving a $200,000 grant to help establish cooperatives focusing on health care, local foods and senior housing. Funds will also be used to help Native American tribal members form a cooperative.
In North Carolina, the Rural Advancement Foundation International–USA will receive a $200,000 grant to launch a program on agricultural cooperatives. Funding will be used to provide technical assistance to groups in rural North Carolina, South Carolina, northern Florida, and eastern Kentucky. Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 200 RCDG grants for approximately $38.4 million that have helped more than 2,500 businesses.
USDA's Intermediary Relending Program helps capitalize loan funds to alleviate poverty and increase economic activity and create jobs in rural communities. Loans are provided to local organizations that establish revolving loan funds.
For example, the Vermont Community Loan Fund, in Montpelier, will receive a $1 million loan to help 90 organizations and businesses create and retain nearly 900 jobs. The Nebraska Enterprise Fund will receive a $175,558 loan to help businesses and non-profit organizations in Adams, Buffalo, Custer, Dawson, Hall, Hamilton, Kearney, Keith, Lincoln, Merrick, Phelps, Sherman, Valley and York counties in the south central region of the state. In South Dakota, the West River Foundation will use a $750,000 loan to provide low-interest financing to public and non-profit organizations. This is expected to create or save approximately 100 jobs.
Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 281 IRP loans for approximately $140 million. These loans have helped more than 4,700 businesses.
This article originally appeared on Santa Rosa Press Gazette: Federal funding released to strengthen rural communities