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Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding to Strengthen Rural Businesses and Cooperatives and Boost Economic Development in Rural Communities

Weldon Freeman
Release Date
Nov 14, 2014

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $5.8 million in grant awards to 32 recipients to help create jobs and boost economic development activity in rural areas.

"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. The RCDG recipients include several who are developing new opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on the fast-growing market for locally produced food. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

For example, 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 addition, Cooperative Development Services, Inc. will receive a $200,000 used to provide outreach, education, and technical assistance in rural areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.  Specific tasks include project development assistance, market research, feasibility analysis, business planning, and governance training.

RCDGs are awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions.  The recipients 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.

Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 200 RCDG grants for approximately $38.4 million that have helped more than 2,500 businesses.

President Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger.  Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.