USDA Announces Availability of Loans and Grants to Support Rural Economic Development

Washington, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is accepting applications for loans and grants to support community development projects, business expansion and job creation.

"These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing efforts to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for rural entrepreneurs," Vilsack said. "Through them, USDA is working with local organizations to provide capital to help small business owners achieve their goals. These investments are helping rural residents take the next steps on the ladder to greater success and opportunity."

Assistance is being provided through two USDA Rural Development programs: the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized both programs through 2018. For Fiscal Year 2014, $18.9 million in IRP loans are available, and $25.4 million in RMAP loans and grants are available.

Under IRP, USDA lends money to economic development intermediaries (non-profits and public bodies) who re-lend it to rural businesses (ultimate recipients) that might not otherwise be able to obtain such financing. The program supports sustainable economic development and helps create or retain jobs in disadvantaged and remote communities. USDA encourages intermediaries to work with state and regional representatives and with other public and private organizations that can provide complementary resources. Since President Obama took office, the IRP program has created or saved an estimated 92,000 jobs.

Under RMAP, USDA provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to help microentrepreneurs — very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees — access microloans to start or develop businesses. MDOs use the funds to provide training and technical assistance to eligible small businesses or to establish revolving loan funds to provide micro-loans, typically $5,000 to $50,000, to rural microentrepreneurs. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the RMAP program has provided $52 million for 257 projects to support very small business enterprises.

Details about how to apply for 2014 IRP funding are on page 28886 and for 2014 RMAP funding are on page 28888 of today's Federal Register. Application forms may be obtained from any USDA Rural Development State Office.

The Mid-Columbia Economic Development District in Maupin, Ore., used a $100,000 IRP loan and other funding to keep Maupin's local grocery store open and save six jobs. The new owner used the funds to remodel the 90-year-old establishment, which serves residents and tourists and is the only grocery store within 40 miles.

USDA provided $605,000 in RMAP loans and grants to California FarmLink, a statewide non-profit serving limited-resource, underserved farmers. FarmLink used the funds to provide 23 micro-loans and technical assistance to small farmers in California. The farmers bought seeds, plants and equipment, hired workers, marketed their crops and became more profitable. More than half of the micro-loans were provided to women and minority farmers.

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.

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