U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today visited with the owners of two rural Iowa businesses to discuss how recent USDA investments are helping them in their job-creation efforts.
While in Iowa, Secretary Vilsack also announced over $4.5 million in USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program funding to help seven organizations in Iowa expand healthcare and job opportunities throughout the state. Under this program, USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the program’s reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact. Since 2009, Iowa has received $27.6 million in funding for job-creating initiatives through the REDLG program.
The following organizations in Iowa are receiving Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant funding:
- Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative - LeMars, Iowa is receiving a $1,000,000 Rural Economic Development Loan to assist Monogram Prepared Meals LLC in Harlan, Iowa, expand its food processing capacity.
- Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative - Harlan, Iowa is also receiving a $1,000,000 Rural Economic Development Loan to assist Monogram Prepared Meals LLC in Harlan, Iowa, expand its food processing capacity.
- Allamakee-Clayton Electric - Postville, Iowa is receiving a $680,000 loan to assist with the construction of a fire station in the City of Waukon.
- Pella Cooperative Electric Association – Pella, Iowa, is receiving a $1,000,000 Rural Economic Development Loan to assist with the expansion and renovation of Knoxville Hospitals and Clinics. During the past year, more than 100 mental health patients have been transferred from the hospital due to an inability to treat them.
- Central Iowa Power Cooperative – Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is receiving a $300,000 Rural Economic Development Grant to also assist with the expansion and renovation of Knoxville Hospitals and Clinics.
- Spencer Municipal Utilities – Spencer, Iowa, is receiving a $300,000 Rural Economic Development Grant to help Seasons Center for Behavioral Health in Spencer, Iowa, renovate a building.
- Midland Power Cooperative – Jefferson, Iowa, is receiving a $300,000 Rural Economic Development Grant to assist with the construction of a multi-purpose building in Gilbert, Iowa, that will be used as a fire station, city hall and community center.
Before he announced these loans and grants, Secretary Vilsack visited with the owners of Dan & Debbie’s Dairy near Ely in rural Johnson County. The dairy is one of six rural Iowa businesses that earlier this week received a 2014 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG). Nearly 250 rural businesses received a total of $25 million in 2014 VAPG investments to help them grow, diversify and create jobs across the nation.
Dan & Debbie’s Dairy received a $5,780 grant to develop a marketing and business plan for a business that will locally produce and process milk products.
Later in the day, Vilsack visited with the owners and employees at Iowa Choice Harvest, which celebrated the opening of its processing facility in November 2013 thanks, in part, to USDA support. During the past two years, USDA Rural Development has awarded Iowa Choice Harvest with loan guarantee and Value-Added Producer Grant funds totaling $662,184 to assist the start-up business. The funds will help purchase equipment to size, freeze and process fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as help build an accounting and financial software system and develop marketing materials for the business.
Iowa Choice Harvest is owned by a small group of central Iowa farmers who are developing processes for freezing fruits and vegetables and creating a distribution network. The farmers have traditionally sold directly to customers at places such as area farmers markets.
“Building markets for local and regionally grown agricultural products makes great economic sense,” Vilsack said. “Continuing to look for ways to promote the value of locally produced foods is an extremely important activity as communities work hard to attract new families and business opportunities.”
The VAPG program helps agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products
Value-Added Producer Grants are an element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work to support local and regional food systems. Previous Value-Added Producer Grants supporting local and regional projects are mapped on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food compass.