Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue raising concerns about USDA’s grant-making process and possible budget cuts to the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program. Heitkamp’s letter follows the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives’ (NDAREC) request for an informal review of the program. NDAREC had also asked for release of the 2017 RCDG award recipients, which the USDA refused. “Basic information on who received grants or loans, the amount and intended use of the federal funds is reasonable information a federal agency should disclose,” Heitkamp wrote. “I would like to stress how important these programs are to rural communities across the country and especially to states like North Dakota.” Heitkamp sent Perdue a detailed list of questions about the RCDG grant process, and expressed the need to protect these programs against possible budget cuts. While NDAREC has received a grant every year since 1994, the co-op was refused this year – after its application for the grant was scored well below previous applications by a USDA committee.
Heitkamp asks for transparency in USDA grant-making process