USDA announces funding to help rural businesses create jobs

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WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA is investing $3.6 million for 67 Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG). Congress established the RBDG program in the 2014 Farm Bill by combining and improving the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program and the Rural Business Opportunity Grant program.

“I am proud of the work USDA has done to help small businesses grow in rural America because they are the engine that creates jobs,” Vilsack said. “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. Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, we can continue this work in a more streamlined and efficient way to benefit small businesses and the American taxpayer.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “I am pleased that Maine received four of the USDA RBDG grants totaling $275,000. USDA Rural Development partners with organizations such as the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association and the Northern Maine Development Commission Inc. to provide rural small businesses with the resources necessary to grow their operations and increase jobs in rural Maine.”

One of the RBDG recipients selected today, Aroostook Aspiration Initiative, will receive a $25,000 grant to assist with expanding the Internship Hub of Aroostook program. The project will conduct leadership training for prospective adult, rural entrepreneurs and managers, while establishing and developing rural learning programs that provide job training instructions related to potential employment and job advancement for adult students. The project has the potential over the next three years to create 75 jobs.

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The RBDG program is one of many USDA Rural Development Programs that help create jobs and provide economic opportunities in rural areas. USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service has awarded more than 20,000 grants and loans to more than 85,000 businesses since the start of the Obama Administration.

The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG) will use an $89,000 USDA RBDG grant to assist with expanding the Maine Grains Oat project. The project will consist of acquiring and installing oat-dehulling and related equipment and mechanical work, alone with testing, package design, Web consultation for online marketing, and project management. The project has the potential to create 21 jobs.

The Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA) will use a $98,950 USDA RBDG grant to assist with organic grower business consultation services, organic farming workshops and professional training, and third-party loans for non-production purposes from an organic farmers’ revolving loan fund. The project has the potential to create 50 jobs.

The Northern Maine Development Commission, Inc. received a $62,050 USDA RBDG grant and will use the funds to help develop marketing strategies and improve distribution channels throughout the Great Region Diversified Agricultural of Aroostook, Piscataquis, and Washington Counties. The project has the potential to create 38 jobs.

Funding for today’s awardees is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan and grant agreements.

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.

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