Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of USDA Rural Development in Oregon. Here, you will find updates on funding opportunities and program activities through our Business and Cooperative, Community Facility, Multi-Family and Single-Family Housing programs. I invite you to share our newsletter with others so they can learn about the many opportunities and great work USDA Rural Development is doing throughout Oregon.
Vicki L. Walker, State Director
USDA Rural Development is now seeking Housing Preservation Grant applications in support of projects that preserve and repair housing for very-low- and low-income families living in rural areas. Eligible applicants include local governments, public agencies, tribes, and nonprofit and faith-based organizations. Up to $3.9 million is available in Fiscal Year 2014. Applications are due July 28, 2014. More information on how to apply is in the Federal Register. USDA does not provide funding directly to homeowners under this program.
Since the start of USDA's single-family housing programs in 1949, USDA employees have helped nearly 3.4 million rural residents buy homes of their own. Here in Oregon, since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has made or guaranteed loans for nearly 14,000 rural families. Many of these are lower-income, first-time homebuyers who are earning a leg up into the middle class. Homeownership is a critical step on the ladder of opportunity as it helps build equity and increase assets. Learn more about USDA Rural Development homeownership programs on our website.
Seal Rock Water District, which provides water to over 4,300 residents and small commercial customers in rural Lincoln County, has been approved for $6 million in USDA Water and Waste Disposal loan and grant financing. The district purchases treated water from the City of Toledo and serves a relatively long and narrow band of coastal land between the cities of Waldport and Newport. The USDA Rural Development financing package will help the district improve their water distribution and meet needs for the next 30 years.
USDA has announced up to $14.5 million in funding for two USDA bioenergy programs made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA Rural Development will make up to $12 million in payments to help eligible biorefineries offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems through the Repowering Assistance Program. For details, refer to the Federal Register. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is also seeking applications for NIFA's Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector. The program makes $2.5 million in grants available to enhance national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels, biopower, and new bio-based products.
USDA also announced recently a valuable new aid to those in, or interested in, starting a bio-energy business, the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a portal offering users access to a complement of web-based tools and information, statistical data and other resources related to the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel, a process often referred to as the bioeconomy.
USDA Rural Development's Multi-Family Housing Programs finance the development of affordable rental housing for rural seniors, familes and farm workers. These facilities are owned and managed privately. The site manager at each complex is tasked with meeting tenant needs, maintining the condition and appeal of the property, and fulfilling the requirements for continued USDA support. This year, USDA Rural Development recognized two site managers for their excellent service in ensuring the quality of life at their facilities. Desiree Perry, manager of Deborah Court Apartments in Newberg, and DeEllen Hardy, manager of the Canby Village apartments for rural seniors and disabled residents, were both recently awarded certificates of recognition by USDA Multi-Family Housing Program Director for Oregon, Ramona Mitchell (photo center). Congratulation to both Desiree (photo right) and DeEllen and thank you for all you do to help keep rural Oregon a great place to live and thrive!
USDA is now seeking applications from eligible lenders for loan guarantees to finance the construction or rehabilitation of rural rental housing through the Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program. The program is designed to provide affordable housing for low- or moderate-income families or individuals whose incomes do not exceed 115 percent of the adjusted median income (adjusted for family size). USDA plans to make up to $150 million available and will accept proposals through December 31, 2015. Approved applications from prior years’ notices will be the first to receive funding, followed by new applications based on their ranking.
This spring, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will be making a historic $78 million investment in local and regional food systems, including food hubs, farmers markets, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises. Vilsack said that $48 million in loan guarantees for local food projects is available through USDA 's Rural Development's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, and $30 million is available through competitive grants via the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program.
The 2014 Farm Bill requires USDA Rural Development to set aside at least five percent of Business and Industry (B&I) program loan guarantees for projects that focus on local food business enterprises. The B&I program provides financial backing for rural business development in partnership with private-sector lenders. It is one of several USDA programs that help finance local foods projects. The B&I program has the authority to fund local food infrastructure in urban areas as long as the project supports farm and ranch income and expands healthy food access in underserved communities. Entities eligible for B&I loan guarantees include cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, corporations, partnerships or other legal entities, tribes, public bodies and individuals. Details on how to apply for local food funding -- or support for other rural business ventures -- through the B&I program are available online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
In 2013, Rural Development supported more than 170 local food infrastructure projects – from food hubs, to scale-appropriate processing facilities, to cold storage and distribution networks.
USDA's Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) grant program helps rural communities of 2,500 or fewer conduct necessary planning activities to develop water and waste disposal projects. This year, USDA Pacific City Joint Water-Sanitary Authority in rural Tillamook County and the City of Monroe in rural Benton County will each receive $30,000 SEARCH grants to plan wastewater disposal improvements. In addition, the City of Monroe will be awarded a second $30,000 SEARCH Grant to develop a storm water master plan. For more information about the SEARCH Grant in Oregon, contact our local Community Programs staff.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) makes certain additional rural areas eligible for USDA Rural Housing Programs, with provisions. Changes to the eligible areas map based on the Farm Bill and the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2014 were released in May. In Oregon, eligible rural areas for USDA housing programs have been expanded in certain communities in the following counties, effective immediately: Josephine and Yamhill counties.
Stakeholders are further advised that additional changes to eligible rural areas for USDA Rural Housing Programs are scheduled to occur on October 1, according to the Farm Bill and the 2010 Census. Certain areas previously eligible for USDA Rural Housing Programs may become ineligible on October 1, 2014, barring further Congressional action. In Oregon, eligible rural areas for USDA housing programs will be adjusted in certain communities in the following counties on October 1, 2014: Washington and Clackamas counties.
More detail on the boundaries of eligible areas and the specific locations and properties to become ineligible after October 1, 2014, will be indicated on the USDA Income and Property Eligibility Site by the end of June. Under “Property Eligibility,” select “Single Family Housing,” and “Future Eligible Areas,” then enter the address. Applications for properties in areas to become ineligible on October 1 will be evaluated for funding consideration only if all required application materials are complete and fully submitted to USDA prior to October 1, 2014.
USDA continues its commitment to the future of agriculture by unveiling www.usda.gov/newfarmers, a one-stop shop for new and beginning farmers entering agriculture. It’s a practical, workable tool that will help farmers and ranchers of tomorrow tap into the range of USDA resources today. Featuring direct links to USDA programs and services, as well as case studies about how USDA support is being put to work to for America’s agriculture future, www.usda.gov/newfarmers is a welcome new resource.