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Rural Economic Area Partnership Program (REAP Zones)

Many rural areas face economic and community development issues of a very different character than communities whose needs are mainly defined by poverty. Often, the defining features are geographic isolation of communities separated by long distances, absence of large metropolitan centers, low-density settlement patterns, historic dependence on agriculture, continued population loss, outmigration, and economic upheaval or economic distress.

To address these issues, USDA advocated a pilot concept for rural revitalization and community development called Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zones. The REAP Initiative was established to address critical issues related to constraints in economic activity and growth, low density settlement patterns, stagnant or declining employment, and isolation that has led to disconnection from markets, suppliers, and centers of information and finance.

Memoranda of Agreement between the Zones and USDA establish Rural Development mission area as the lead Federal Agency to assist the zones in the implementation of their programs. This pilot project sets up a collaborative and citizen-led effort to enhance economic development in the REAP Zones. This effort will become the model for building a new rural economy for other rural areas with similar problems. The Department of Agriculture has provided modest amounts of money to Zones for planning this program. This contribution has been augmented by USDA community development technical assistance across all areas of Zone endeavor. Furthermore, priority consideration is given for Zone applications submitted for funding through USDA Rural Development.

In 1995, two zones in North Dakota were initially designated to participate in the REAP initiative. Subsequently, in 1999, two areas in upstate New York were added as the third and fourth Zones. In 2000, an area in Vermont was designated as the fifth Zone. Both the North Dakota Zones and the Vermont Zone are multi-county in size, while the two in New York are, for the most part, single counties. Each REAP Zone developed a strategic plan for economic revitalization in their respective geographic areas.

2018 Farm Bill language on REAP Zones

Section 310B(j) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 1932(j))is amended by striking out 2012 and inserting 2018.

7 U.S.C. 1932(j) Rural economic area partnership zones
Effective beginning on the date of enactment of this subsection through September 30, 2018, the Secretary shall carry out those rural economic area partnership zones administratively in effect on the date of enactment of this subsection in accordance with the terms and conditions contained in the memorandums of agreement entered into by the Secretary for the rural economic area partnership zones, except as otherwise provided in this subsection.


Responsibilities of a REAP Zone

  • Conduct a citizen-led, comprehensive, long-term, strategic planning process for development of the community according to the principles of the Community Empowerment Initiative.
  • Develop specific performance benchmarks and indicators from the strategic plan; enter into the Benchmark Management System and keep them current.
  • Seek a broad range of resources to implement the strategic plan, with emphasis on mobilizing local and regional resources that will continue to be available after the REAP Zone designation expires, rather than looking to USDA or other outside sources to subsidize local development.
  • Obtain approval from USDA Rural Development before amending any of the community strategic plan elements, benchmarks, or performance measures.
  • Provide USDA Rural Development with descriptions of successful practices that have potential application in other communities facing similar conditions and issues.
  • Report regularly on the community progress in implementing its strategic plan through the Benchmark Management System and other reports as requested by USDA.
  • Manage all funds used to implement the strategic plan responsibly and report publicly on their use and accomplishments; conduct annual independent audits of all funds used to implement the strategic plan, whether government or private.
  • Recognize that the objective of the REAP Zone program is not merely project implementation, but community empowerment, and devote significant resources and attention to achieving this by building the skills of citizens and leaders to plan, implement, manage, and evaluate their own programs.
  • Develop and maintain broad and open partnerships with other local and regional organizations that have a stake in the enhancement of the quality of life in the REAP Zone; these partnerships will become a bridge to establishing the permanent capability of the community to make continuing improvements without special Federal assistance after the REAP Zone designation expires.
  • Remain faithful to the principles of the Community Empowerment Initiative that put strong emphasis on the critical importance of broad-based citizen participation in all phases of the development, implementation, and evaluation of the strategic plan, with special emphasis placed on welcoming those members of the community (minorities, low income citizens) who are traditionally left out of the process.
  • Participate in USDA-sponsored training for REAPs.

REAP Zones' Locations:

Zone State   Counties
CONAC ND   McHenry, Bottineau, Rolette, Towner, Pierce and Benson; and the Indian reservations of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Spirit Lake Sioux
Southwest ND   Dunn, Stark, Hettinger, Adams, Bowman, Slope, Golden Valley, Billings, and part of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation
Sullivan-Wawarsing NY   Sullivan and the Town of Wawarsing
Tioga NY   Tioga
Northeast Kingdom VT   Caledonia, Essex, Orleans (link to local website)

Rural Development Representatives Working With REAP Zones:

North Dakota
Mark Wax
USDA Rural Development
220 East Rosser Avenue Rm. 208
Bismarck, ND 58501
Tel: (701)-530-2039

New York
Rachele Scarlett
USDA-Rural Development
The Galleries of Syracuse
441 S. Salina St., Ste. 357
Syracuse, NY 13202
tel (315) 477-6437
fax (315) 477-6438

Ken Yearman
USDA-Rural Development
87 State Street, Suite 324, P.O. Box 249
Montpelier VT 05601
tel (802) 828-6083