USDA Announces $5.8 Million to Support Rural Cooperatives

Christine Feroli
District of Columbia
Release Date
Oct 14, 2015

Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah today awarded 30 grants totaling $5.8 million to help rural cooperatives create jobs and support business expansion. The funds are being provided through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, which helps fund non-profit groups, such as rural cooperative development centers and higher education institutions.

"The cooperative business model has been very successful in improving the economies of our rural communities,” Mensah said. "As we celebrate October as National Cooperative Month, we are pleased to bring a spotlight to these worthy groups.”

Rural Business-Cooperative Service Acting Administrator Sam Rikkers made the announcement on Mensah’s behalf during a speech to members of the National Cooperative Bank.

Development Centers can use RCDG funds for feasibility studies, strategic planning, leadership and operations training, and business plan development.  As part of this grant program, recipients are required to contribute matching funds that equal 25 percent of total project costs.

Projects in 22 states are receiving RCDG funding. For example, the Cooperative Development Foundation will receive a $119,000 grant to provide technical assistance to organize and develop home health care cooperatives in rural areas in Virginia, and to turn workers into owners. In the long term, these efforts will help improve the quality of home care for rural residents.

The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis, Minn., will receive a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help rural Latino farmers form cooperatives to promote economic development.  LEDC has trained Latino farmers in cooperative organization and management, including farm incubation equipment sharing, which enables them to move from migrant work to year-round positions, creating pathways for low-wage farmworkers to become farm owners.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has funded 230 cooperative grants for $44.4 million to support projects in 39 states. This funding has benefited more than 2,600 businesses. For example, in 2013, when the owners of three Maine businesses--Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley—announced they were considering selling the stores and retiring, the employees needed help. One of the resources they utilized was the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), a cooperative development center partially funded by a USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. The employees worked with CDI and other advisors for nearly a year to create a worker cooperative, secure financing and purchase the stores. The former employees are now the proud owners of the Island Employee Cooperative Inc., the largest worker cooperative in Maine.

Through today’s announcement, USDA is providing grants for 30 projects in 22 states. View the awards announced today. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their grant agreement.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service has helped 85,000 rural businesses create jobs and economic opportunity.

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.