Every now and then, I like to use this space to share information about funding opportunities or conferences that do not directly involve USDA Rural Development, but still might interest readers of this newsletter.
This is one of those times.
- The USDA recently announced a new Farm to School grant program. The program helps eligible schools through grants and technical assistance improve access to locally grown foods. In addition to the program's webpage, you can also learn more about the program on the USDA's Farm to School page.
- On July 24-25 in Duluth, HUD's Office of Native American Programs will offer a Native Asset Building Symposium. Conference workshop topics include financial literacy, credit counseling, homebuyer education, small business development and microlending. Keep checking this website for registration information.
- The Center for Small Towns will host its Small Town Symposium on June 13-14 on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Morris. The Center always puts on a great symposium. Hearing all the stories about rural economic development in action makes the conference well worth attending. Information on the symposium can be found here.
- I'll end with a topic that does directly concern USDA Rural Development. Our national property eligibility website recently went through update. Visitors now can determine property eligibility without entering a zip code. City, county, landmark and state are now searchable terms. Users can zoom in on a specific location and print maps as needed. You can check out the changes for yourself here.
Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has helped 512 rural small businesses and agricultural producers install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
On Tuesday, April 10, about 40 of those small business owners and producers gathered in Mankato to discuss the REAP program during a roundtable featuring Senator Al Franken and USDA Rural Development
State Director Colleen Landkamer.
A couple of participants also shared success stories. Andrea Christoffer from Federated Rural Electric
Cooperative highlighted how her co-op has used several REAP grants to install a geo-thermal system, a wind turbine, and help area small businesses reduce energy consumption and cut costs after energy audits.
Wayne Knewtson of Knewtson Soy Products discussed the increase in production and energy efficiency in his operations after he used a REAP grant to purchase a new grain dryer.
“We can do a lot just by using the energy that’s right in our backyard,” Landkamer said during the roundtable. “Rural energy results in rural jobs.”
The program has been extremely popular in Minnesota since its creation in the 2002 Farm Bill. A total of 674 projects have received funding in Minnesota since 2003.
Roundtable participants shared several ideas on how to improve and strengthen REAP. Examples included making it easier for smaller firms to access funds, making application dates and funding levels uniform each year and eliminating some paperwork for small-scale projects.
Does your healthcare organization need to upgrade its Health Information Technology? USDA Rural Development can help.
Through our community facilities program, we finance the construction, renovation or expansion of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living center, mental health facilities and healthcare equipment.
Rural Development funds also may be used to purchase Health Information Technology for eligible healthcare providers for adopting Electronic Health Records technology to meet the meaningful use provision.
Loan and grant funds are available. Projects must be located in a rural community of 20,000 people or fewer.
For more information, check out this flyer
or contact a Rural Development office
in your region.
USDA Rural Development is accepting applications through the Community Connect program to provide broadband service to remote, rural communities.
Community Connect grants are made to the most rural, unserved and economically challenged areas. The funds are used to build broadband infrastructure and awardees are required to establish community centers that offer free public access to broadband.
For more information, see the May 3, 2012, edition of the Federal Register, visit the Community Connect Grants website
, or contact a Rural Development office
in your area.
USDA Rural Development has loan and grant funds available to assist public safety licensees in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) to migrate their 25 MHz (wideband) systems to 15 MHz (narrowband). The deadline is Jan. 31, 2013, so if your community needs financial assistance with the migration contact your local Rural Development specialist.
-- Public entities, nonprofits and Indian tribes in rural communities under 20,000 people are eligible to apply.
-- To qualify for grants, a community's median household income must not exceed $42,993 per the 2000 census.
-- Grant assistance is provided on a graduated scale, from 15 to 75 percent based on median household income and population of service area.
-- Interest rates on loans depend on median household income.
-- The current interest rate is 3.375 percent. Rates change quarterly.
-- Loan repayment terms are the life of the equipment.
To learn about Rural Development's community facilities program, check out the program brochure.
In our April newsletter, we unveiled a new map and database that highlights Rural Development's revolving loan funds, organized by county in Minnesota.
A couple of readers noticed a few errors or omissions, so we updated the document and reloaded it on the website. Give it a look
and if you notice other errors or omissions, please emal firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grants (SSDPG) are due on July 24, 2012. Approximately $3 million is available nationwide.
The SSDPG program provides technical assistance to small, socially-disadvantaged agricultural producers through eligible cooperatives and associations of cooperatives. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. The maximum grant is $200,000.
Still need to replace that old grain dryer, install a geothermal system, pruchase a wind turbine, or make other energy efficiency improvements on your farm or business? There's still time to get applications in for loan guarantees through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Loan guarantee only applications are due by June 29.
To learn more visit the REAP section
of Minnesota's website, or contact a specialist in your region.