Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced that USDA is investing in rural businesses and development organizations to spur economic growth in rural areas and in Tribal communities.
"These investments are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to help rural and Tribal communities that have the greatest need for assistance," Harden said. "USDA is targeting capital and technical assistance to small businesses and development organizations to help stimulate more business activity in areas that are struggling economically. This will help revitalize these small, remote rural communities and create much-needed jobs for local residents."
Harden announced details of the investments following a tour of Intervale Community Farm in Burlington, Vt. Intervale Community Farm is a 135-acre farm incubator on Burlington's Intervale. The Intervale Community Farm contributes 60 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs to the Burlington economy and is part of the Intervale Food Hub, a thriving local food aggregator and distributor contributing to Burlington's regional economy. Local food hubs provide organizations, businesses and institutions orders for local food products that are sourced from a variety of local farms.
The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) and Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) programs. Rural Business Enterprise Grants help small and emerging rural businesses. Rural Business Opportunity Grants promote sustainable economic development in rural communities with exceptional needs.
The grants are being awarded in areas designated as Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) zones. REAP zones are areas that are considered economically distressed due to factors such as poverty, geographic isolation, declining populations or economic upheaval (such as the closing of a major job provider). The 2014 Farm Bill extends all current REAP zones through 2018.
Grants are also being targeted, predominantly through the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program, to Federally recognized Native American Tribes.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has invested nearly $6 million in REAP zones through the RBEG program. These grants have supported businesses and community projects across the country, creating or retaining 2,200 jobs (nearly 1,000 created and 1,200 retained). Since 2009, the agency has also invested $7.8 million in RBOG assistance for REAP zones and Native American Tribes. These Rural Business Opportunity Grants have helped approximately 400 businesses, and have created or retained about 2,100 jobs.
Harden emphasized that the USDA funding includes more than $2.2 million for organizations in Vermont, New York and North Dakota. Nine organizations in Vermont are receiving RBEG and RBOG grants totaling nearly $1.2 million. They will use the money to develop businesses, help revitalize a downtown district, and create jobs across the state. Seven organizations in North Dakota are receiving more than $566,000 in RBEG and RBOG grants to provide technical assistance to rural businesses and explore ways to increase commerce in Tribal areas. In New York, two organizations are receiving more than $445,000 to support rural businesses and determine the feasibility of establishing an open-access fiber optic network.
Through today's announcement, USDA is providing nearly $3 million in grants to 28 organizations in 12 states to strengthen rural business and promote economic development. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The legislation builds on historic economic gains in rural America during the past five years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since its enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
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.