Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced funding awards during the Rural Wealth Creation and Livelihoods Conference sponsored by USDA's Economic Research Service.
USDA Rural Business Administrator Judith Canales spoke with reporters about these investments that USDA is making to support rural communities, help create jobs and build regional economies in 34 states.
"USDA through Rural Development and my agency the Rural Business Cooperative program are geared toward helping to build more business investment in our rural areas," Canales said. "This announcement pertains to helping local business leaders, communities, and disadvantaged agricultural producers to take more of a collaborative and regional approach toward job creation, business development and economic growth."
Canales says when adding together the investments that were announced the total is $8.6 million. She says that three programs are the main focus of this funding.
"One is the Rural Business Opportunity Grant, which is a program that supports regional planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas," Canales said. "More than $2.5 million in USDA funding will support 37 projects in 27 states."
The second program Canales discussed was the Small and Socially Disadvantaged Producer grants. They provide technical assistance through eligible cooperatives and associations. More than $2.9 million is being awarded to 19 recipients. The third program is the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.
"This program provides grants to local utility organizations, which use the funding to establish revolving loan funds," Canales said. "It is a way to be able to get access to capital in our rural communities. These loans are made to projects that will create or retain jobs in rural areas."
The revolving loan funds support 21 projects and will be leveraging more than $17 million additional funding of both public and private financing and are expected to save and create about 354 jobs.
"Each one of these items is part of an overall national package that Rural Business Cooperative programs operate on an annual basis," Canales said.