EPES, Ala., Aug 16, 2013 -- USDA Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien today met with leaders of southern cooperatives to highlight USDA programs and services to improve economic conditions in the Mississippi Delta.
"Cooperatives often are the economic backbone of agricultural communities," O’Brien said. "USDA Rural Development has several programs to help cooperatives reach new markets, develop new products, support local and regional businesses, and grow the rural economy. Our partnership with cooperatives has never been stronger."
Speaking at the annual conference of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund, O’Brien said a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is needed to continue USDA programs that strengthen rural cooperatives. That’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible, he said.
The Federation’s 45th annual conference kicked off this week at the group’s Rural Training & Research Center in Epes. O’Brien encouraged attendees to contact Rural Development staff to take advantage of funding opportunities available for rural cooperatives. Soon, for example, USDA will begin its review of applications in the Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program. Yesterday, O’Brien noted, USDA began soliciting applications for grants to support rural community development and to finance housing for farm laborers.
The Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program helps certain agricultural producers conduct market research, feasibility studies and training; make improvements to products and services; and implement business plans. Small, socially disadvantaged producers include farmers, ranchers, loggers, agricultural harvesters and fishermen who have averaged $250,000 or less in annual gross sales in the last three years.
Also during the conference, O’Brien announced that Rural Development is allocating nearly $29 million in Community Facilities loans and grants to improve the quality of rural schools and libraries across the nation.
"Among the most important keys to successful learning is providing a safe, healthy environment," O’Brien said. "We’re partnering with communities across the U.S. to build, renovate and improve small-town libraries and schools, from Head Start programs all the way to the college level. Rural Development takes seriously President Obama’s mandate to build a stronger America from the ground up."
The Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System, headquartered in Kosciusko and serving Attala, Holmes, Leake, Montgomery and Winston counties, will receive a $50,000 grant to replace computer equipment and software in 13 public libraries serving five counties. In Americus, Ga., the South Georgia Technical College will use a $28,800 grant to purchase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) equipment and technical simulators for its new chemistry and physics laboratories. The Telfair County (Ga.) Board of Education plans to use a $62,100 grant to purchase more than 300 Chromebooks and 13 charge carts for the county’s grades 3-5 math and science classrooms.
Other Back-to-School CF projects include:
• In Wake County, East Wake First Charter School will use a $406,160 direct loan to build a 2-story, 24,000-square-foot middle school.
• The Learning Center/Ogden School, Inc. will receive a $350,000 direct loan to renovate and build an 8,645-square-foot expansion of the existing Cherokee County school.
• The Lamar County Board of Education will receive a $25,000 grant to purchase STEM equipment for Lamar County High School.
• The HighMark Charter School is receiving an $11.5 million direct loan/loan guarantee combination to purchase a facility it is leasing in Davis County.
• The Telamon Corp. will use a $1.3 million direct loan to build a Head Start center in Smyrna. Owning rather than leasing the property will allow Telamon to improve the program and serve more students.
USDA Rural Development has many other programs to support rural businesses and cooperatives. In 2012 alone, these programs helped almost 10,000 rural small business owners or farmers improve their enterprises, creating or saving an estimated 53,000 rural jobs. For more information on USDA Rural Development’s business programs, contact the nearest Rural Development office. A list of these offices is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
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.
Through its Rural Development mission area, USDA 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 the Department 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.