Washington, Nov 21, 2013 -- Contact:
Kevin Tuttle, 715-701-2589
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Economic Development Funding To Strengthen Businesses and Create Jobs in Rural Communities
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the selection of 34 organizations for grants to help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand, create jobs and strengthen their capacity to serve rural citizens and communities.
“These grants help cooperatives support projects and initiatives that create jobs and improve rural economic conditions,” Vilsack said. “USDA funding helps provide the expertise and capacity-building resources that cooperatives rely on to succeed in carrying out their missions.”
Funding is being provided through USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program. The grants are being awarded to non-profit groups and higher education institutions to create and operate centers that help establish, expand or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses. These competitively awarded grants may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services. Since fiscal year 2009, the RCDG program has awarded 166 grants for approximately $33 million and has helped nearly 3,000 businesses.
Today’s announcement includes several recipients who are developing new market opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by capitalizing on consumer interest in locally-produced food. For example, Virginia FAIRS, a cooperative development center serving businesses throughout the state, has been selected for a $200,000 grant to connect farmers and ranchers with retail buyers through food hubs.
The Indiana Cooperative Development Center is being selected for a $200,000 grant to assist food hubs – facilities that aggregate local food and market it to large-volume buyers in the region – as part of the “My Local Indiana” effort. A recent Michigan State University study found that the average food hub creates nearly 20 jobs and generates close to $4 million in sales.
The projects supported through today’s announcement go far beyond food. For example, In Madison, Wis., Cooperative Development Services, Inc., is receiving a $200,000 grant for the delivery of education, outreach, and technical assistance in rural areas. The tasks to be completed include project development, market research, feasibility analysis, business planning, and governance training.
The Cooperative Network, another project in Wisconsin, is receiving a $200,000 grant to create and assist rural cooperatives in several areas, including health care, local food, energy, senior housing, and job retention via conversion of independent businesses to cooperative enterprises, as well as to provide technical assistance and economic development outreach intended to bring renewed economic vitality to rural regions.
Vilsack announced more than $6 million in grants for today’s list of recipients. Funding for each recipient is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.
Vilsack noted that today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. He said a comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy and added that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.
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.
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