News Release
Release No.STELPRD4020726
ContactKaren Petrus(501) 301-3216
Van Buren, Arkansas, May 20, 2013 --

@@ USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien today kicked off National Homeownership Month in Arkansas and highlighted USDA programs to help rural residents buy, refinance and repair homes.

“USDA housing programs offer rural Americans the opportunity to provide homes for their families,” said O’Brien. “The Department has spurred significant economic growth and revitalization in Arkansas with the financing of nearly 4,500 home loans in 2012.”

O’Brien attended a housing event at the home of a Self-Help Housing loan recipient today in Van Buren. This year’s Homeownership Month theme is “USDA: Bringing Rural America Home.”

In January, USDA expanded a pilot loan refinance program to enable Rural Housing home loan borrowers to take advantage of today’s historically low interest rates. The pilot is being tested in 34 states, including Arkansas, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico – areas that were hardest hit in the housing downturn. It has already enabled more than 4,000 homeowners to refinance $500 billion in mortgages.

USDA is working on additional housing program changes. Later this year, staff is expected to announce a plan to make it easier for housing loan applicants to complete applications. The proposal would establish training and other requirements for loan packagers who would meet with potential homeowners, do a preliminary review of their eligibility and then gather all required loan documents.

During his visit to Arkansas, O’Brien will also speak in Rogers at the 15th Annual National Value-Added Agriculture Conference. He will discuss rural America’s importance to the national economy.

USDA Rural Development’s Value-Added Producer Grant Program provides grants to agricultural producers for planning activities and working capital expenses to help them receive a greater share of the value of agricultural products.

For example, Alter Farms in DeWitt, Ark., received a $36,000 Value-Added Producer Grant to produce and processes specialty rice. As a result, Alter Farms has launched a website for products and has begun selling a variety of specialty rice to new markets.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s 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. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).