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Technical Assistance

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.

As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, Section 6016 all current REAP Zones were extended through September 30, 2018.

For additional information, including facts on each REAP Zone, visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP-EZEC-REAP-Facts.html

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Last Modified:09/30/2014 
 
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