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from the USDA

(Columbia) – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that grant applications are being accepted from qualified non-profit organizations and educational facilities to help rural cooperatives develop new markets for their products and services. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today’s announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

“This funding is part of the Obama Administration’s effort to ensure the development of a rural economy built to last. This program supports business development services for rural cooperatives. These funds will promote start up, expansion and operational improvements as cooperatives work to grow and strengthen their businesses and provide sustainable, well-paying jobs to rural residents,” said Vilsack.

USDA is offering Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) to non-profit corporations and institutions of higher education. The grants may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create business plans, help rural cooperatives develop markets and provide training for cooperative leadership. Grants are awarded competitively on an annual basis to Rural Cooperative Development Centers, which in turn provide technical assistance to individuals and cooperatives.

Missouri USDA – Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning commented, “Often rural cooperatives have great ideas for businesses, but need assistance in developing the idea or finding markets for products. This program allows organizations and colleges the opportunity to seek funds to assist rural cooperatives develop and enlarge their markets. Rural cooperatives have insight into the product assets of an area and can develop programs to enhance and bolster the local economy.”

Through this notice, USDA may award up to $6.5 million in grants. The deadline for paper applications is July 15, 2013. Electronic copies are due July 10, 2013. For information on how to apply, see page 30848 of the May 23, 2013 Federal Register, or contact the USDA Rural Development Missouri State Office at (573) 876-9321.

Individual grants of up to $200,000 are available. Grants may be used to pay for up to 75 percent (95 percent when the applicant is a 1994 Land Grant Institution) of the project’s cost. Recipients are required to match 25 percent (5 percent for 1994 Land Grant Institutions) of the award amount.

The RCDG program and other USDA business and cooperate development programs have had a significant impact on rural communities. Business and cooperative program funding created or saved an estimated 53,000 rural jobs and helped almost 10,000 rural business owners or farmers improve their enterprises in 2012.

For example, in Rolla, MO, Missouri Incutech Foundation received a $96,000 Rural Cooperative Development Grant in 2012 to establish a Missouri Cooperative Development Center to focus on assisting and joining rural agriculture producers and purchasers. The center has sponsored training and workshops on the requirements for agriculture producers as it relates to retail/wholesale grocery markets and local farm fresh produce. As a result of the training and workshops, Circle B Ranch in Seymour, MO has been able to grow their product lines and establish new markets from their pastured heritage breed pork. Missouri Incutech Foundation has leveraged RCDG funds to help drive the local food economy in central and southwest Missouri.

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.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.

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