WASHINGTON — The selection of 34 organizations for grants to
help rural cooperatives and small businesses expand and strengthen their
capacity to serve rural citizens and communities was announced by Secretary of
Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“Our rural communities have incredible potential to create
new jobs and expand opportunity for rural Americans,” Vilsack said.
“The grants announced today will strengthen rural business
development by partnering with rural co-ops and nonprofits, expanding technical
assistance for Main Street businesses. Today’s effort is yet another example of
USDA’s comprehensive focus on revitalizing the rural economy, and it is a
reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these
Funding is being provided through the U.S. Department of
Agriculture Rural Cooperative Development Grant program.
The grants are being awarded to nonprofit groups and higher
education institutions to create and operate centers that help establish, expand
or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned
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 about $33 million and has helped nearly
Vilsack’s announcement includes several recipients who are
developing new market opportunities for rural farmers and ranchers by
capitalizing on budding consumer interest in locally produced food.
For instance, 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
The projects supported through Vilsack’s announcement go far
beyond food. For example, Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., will
receive a $199,871 grant to conduct outreach on renewable energy and bio-based
products, among other projects. It also will help build statewide capacity for
Vilsack announced more than $6 million in grants. Funding
for each recipient is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the