A farm in Highland County. (Sarah Vogelsong/ For the Virginia Mercury)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that the agency is investing $1.4 billion into rural economies through job training, business loans and the expansion of technical assistance.
“It’s a good day for rural America,” Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, said during a call with reporters.
Eight programs will dole out 751 awards across 49 states. Vilsack added that these programs will help create wealth in rural communities.
“The rural economy, which plays an important role in our national economy, has historically lagged behind the urban and suburban counterparts,” he said. That’s why it’s important for us to focus on building back that rural economy better.”
Those eight programs are the Business and Industry (B&I) Loan Guarantees, the B&I CARES Act Program, the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grants, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, the Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program, the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, the Intermediary Relending Program and the Value-Added Producer Grants.
Some of the grants and loans will assist with needs ranging from housing to expansion of small businesses and family farms to providing capital for new small businesses owners.
One of the programs, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, allocated $8.4 million in grant awards and $1.7 million in loans. In Iowa, the Pella Cooperative Electric Association received a $300,000 grant from that program to replenish the association’s revolving loan fund, which will help fund the construction of a women’s housing and health care facility.
The Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program gave out $5.8 million in grants. Some grants were awarded to cooperatives such as the Georgia Cooperative Development Center, which received $70,000 in funding, and the Cooperative Development Foundation in Virginia, which received a $200,000 grant.
Several universities also received those grants, such as Ohio State University, which received nearly $200,000 and the Board Of Regents, the governing body at the University Of Nebraska, which was awarded $200,000.
Vilsack added that the agency is also hoping to partner with other entities “to ensure that the workforce needed is being trained and is being prepared to take on that opportunity and responsibility.”
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