USDA announces $59 million in funding to encourage rural development

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2014 - USDA has selected 85 utilities and cooperatives for grants and loans totaling more than $59 million to encourage economic growth in rural communities.

Doug O'Brien, the department's acting under secretary for Rural Development, made the announcement today in Kentucky, where he was discussing investment opportunities in the eastern part of the state.

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“These USDA investments capitalize rural small businesses, which allows the owners to expand operations, enter into new markets and increase hiring,” O'Brien said in a news release. The funds are being provided through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

Under the REDLG program, USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities that relend the funds to local businesses for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. The program helps finance business start-up or expansion, business incubators, education and training facilities and equipment, community development assistance, health care and other projects that support rural jobs.

Through RMAP, USDA provides loans to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) that, in turn, make microloans for business start-up or development to eligible microentrepreneurs, defined as very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Grants are available for MDOs to provide technical assistance and training, particularly in rural areas experiencing persistent poverty or significant outmigration. USDA does not directly provide funds to the ultimate recipients. RMAP was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

The funding announced today will help projects in 31 states and the District of Columbia. In total, REDLG will award $39.9 million in grants and loans and RMAP $19.8 million will be distributed through RMAP.

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