SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: GRANT ANNOUNCEMENT AND WEBINAR ON CO-OPS AND LOCAL FOOD
October 27, 2014
Following closely on recent announcements about the Rural Business Enterprise Grant and Rural Business Opportunities Grant awards to support small businesses and economic development in rural communities, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development announced the latest round of grantees for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant program (RCDG) on Friday, October 24. The timing of the awards is especially appropriate with October being National Cooperative month.Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) loans were also announced. In total, USDA announced $12.8 million in grants and loans to 43 organizations in 27 states. Of the $12.8 million, $5.8 million in RCDG awards went to 32 recipients, while just over $7 million in loans went to 11 recipients under IRP.
Established in the 1996 Farm Bill, RCDG is a competitive grant program that funds non-profit organizations and higher education institutions to create and operate coop development centers that help establish, expand, or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned rural businesses. The funding can be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, offer technical assistance, establish low-interest loans, and help rural businesses develop new markets for their products and services. Since fiscal year 2009, USDA has awarded 200 RCDG grants for approximately $38.4 million that have helped more than 2,500 businesses.
Today’s announcement includes several recipients who are supporting local food marketing and other ways to expand economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
Among them, are:
- Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) in North Carolina, an NSAC member group, which received a $200,000 grant to launch a program on agricultural cooperatives. Funding will be used to provide technical assistance to groups in rural North Carolina, South Carolina, northern Florida, and eastern Kentucky;
- Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability which received a $200,000 technical assistance grant to help meat processing cooperatives link producers with local and regional consumers. Funding will be used to provide education and training; and
- Cooperative Network in Wisconsin, which received a $200,000 grant to help establish cooperatives focusing on health care, local foods and senior housing. Funds will be used to help Native American tribal members form a cooperative.
Other grant recipients working on local food projects can be found on the full award recipient list.
USDA Webinar: The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development
In addition to these awards, which highlights the importance of cooperatives to rural community development and the difference they can make to local and regional food systems, USDA plans to host a free webinar, The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, this Thursday, October 30 at 1pm Eastern time.
Details about the webinar, including participating speakers from USDA and cooperatives, and how to connect, are available on this National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) webpage.