CHAMPAIGN, IL. Nov. 16th, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Illinois State Director Betsy Dirksen Londrigan today announced that USDA is investing more than $4 million in loans and grants to spur economic development, catalyze rural prosperity and advance equity through rural cooperatives Illinois. Last month, USDA celebrated its 59th annual National Cooperative Month and the vital role cooperatives play in helping people build bright futures in rural America.
“Cooperatives deliver critical goods and services to our rural communities, providing lower cost energy and electricity to their members. Investing in cooperatives is another way Rural Development can support local businesses and communities and it’s exciting to see these significant investments in Illinois”, said Dirksen Londrigan.
Some projects include:
- Western Illinois University Board of Trustees received a $200,000 grant to to help fund the operations of the Illinois Cooperative Development Center (ICDC), which is housed within the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. While the ICDG will provide an array of technical assistance to rural cooperatives across Illinois, this project will focus on assistance to the Illinois communities of Sheffield, Farmer City, Cairo, and Hopkins Park, with a special emphasis on local groceries and food deserts.
- Wayne-White Counties Electric Coop Inc. is receiving a $93,600 Rural Economic Development Loan to allow the Union Drainage District to replace its old, inefficient drainage water pump and diesel motor. This investment will help protect over 9,000 acres of farmland from flood waters and make the agriculture economy more resilient to climate change.
- Norris Electric Co-Op received a $700,0000 to relend to Wabash Independent Networks Inc (WIN). The funds will be used to build a new broadband warehouse needed to continue growth of Internet broadband to rural Illinois residents and businesses. The construction of the warehouse and new formal customer business office is combined into one location. The new warehouse section will house cable trenching/plowing/boring machines; backhoes; SucVac machines for exposing existing utilities; drop wire plows, construction trucks/trailers and customer service vehicles. (Everything used to deploy and maintain fiber optic Internet in rural Illinois). The project will facilitate the necessary staff to continue to deploy and maintain new broadband services to rural Illinois. Since 2015, their local staff has increased in size from 11 to 46. Currently, 9 employees sit in the Salem office and the new facility will help retain all those jobs.
USDA is making the investments through a suite of business, utilities and cooperative programs and services such as the Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program, Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program, Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant Program and Value-Added Producer Grant Program.
Background: Rural Cooperatives
Cooperatives are businesses owned and controlled by the people who use them. Cooperatives differ from other businesses because they are member owned and operate for the benefit of members, rather than to earn profits for investors.
Cooperatives are a trusted, democratic, time-tested business model that builds local wealth for members and communities. Organized to meet the economic needs of its member-owners, a cooperative is a particularly resilient business. It embodies the concept of self-help: members use the cooperative, own it, and control it.
More than 30,000 cooperatives – including agricultural, utility, financial services, purchasing, food and grocery, housing, and retail co-ops - operate at 73,000 places of business throughout the U.S., and account for more than two million jobs, boast about 350 million memberships, and generate more than $700 billion in annual revenue.