About $18.1 million in USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service loans and grants have been awarded to 92 projects, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.
The grants and loans will help support the start-up or expansion of rural small businesses, USDA said, and join more than 20,000 previous grants and loans to more than 85,000 rural businesses the Rural Business Cooperative Service has already awarded.
"These funds will allow small and emerging businesses and the organizations that support them to get the financing they need to strengthen their operations, create jobs and expand economic opportunities," Vilsack said.
USDA provides grants or zero-interest loans through the REDLG program to utilities that in turn fund projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. Vilsack announced $11.7 million in REDLG loans and grants for 18 recipients.
Further, USDA is awarding 71 Rural Business Development Grants totaling $4 million.
Congress established the RBDG program in the 2014 Farm Bill by combining the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program.
Past examples of how these awards have helped grow the economy in rural America include:
• Sisters Kim Brigham Campbell and Terrie Brigham, in Oregon's Hood River County, used part of an IRP loan awarded to the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District to open a retail store. They sell salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other fish harvested from sites that have been passed down within this Native American family for generations. The store opened in May 2014.
• In FY 2014, USDA Rural Development awarded a $64,990 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to Sustainable Northwest, a non-profit in Portland, Ore., to find commercial uses and markets for Western Juniper. It is a widespread and often problematic species in central and eastern parts of the state. Sustainable Northwest is using USDA's grant to help create timber and forestry jobs in rural Oregon and contribute to ecosystem restoration by identifying additional uses for Western Juniper wood products.
See a full list of the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant recipients on the USDA website.