The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that $5.8 million in competitive funding is available to help start, improve or expand cooperative businesses in rural areas.
“Cooperatives have long been a key resource for small and midsized producers working together to access new markets or to market value added products,” said Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah. “This funding helps them continue their crucial role supporting farmers and other businesses that create jobs, provide services and improve the quality of life in rural America.”
The Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) Program provides funding to non-profit cooperative develop centers and institutions of higher learning. Grants may be awarded for up to $200,000 and matching funds are required equal to 25 percent of the total project cost.
USDA has invested more than $44 million in 228 grants through the RCDG program since 2009. In 2015, the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis used a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help rural Latino farmers form cooperatives. Through its farm incubation equipment sharing program, LEDC helps Latino farmers move from migrant work to year-round positions and from earning low wages as farmworkers to owning farms.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested $11 billion in more than 103,000 rural businesses to start or expand their operations; helped more than 1 million rural residents buy homes; funded nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; financed 180,000 miles of new and improved electric transmission and distribution lines; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.