Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter (Winter 2020)

USDA Rural Development, Oregon Rural Developments Newsletter

Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of USDA Rural Development in Oregon. Here, you will find updates on funding opportunities and program activities through BusinessCooperativeEnergyElectricTelecommunicationsWater and EnvironmentalCommunity FacilitiesMulti-Family Housing, and Single Family Housing programs.

Introducing Oregon Rural Development’s New Staff Members

We are pleased to welcome two new staff members this quarter and to announce that one of our employees has taken a new position with Rural Development.

Jessie Huff, Business and Cooperative Programs Specialist and Energy Coordinator

Jessie Huff is the new Business and Cooperative Programs Specialist and Energy Coordinator in our Portland state office.

For the last four years, Jessie served as the Energy Coordinator for Rural Development in Alaska.

Before joining USDA, she was an Energy Development Specialist with the Alaska Energy Authority. She designed and managed the installation of solar photovoltaic systems in Anchorage. She also helped to create the Office of Sustainability and a sustainable student housing development at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Jessie originally moved to Alaska for a summer job as a backcountry tour guide in 2007. Prior to that, she worked in Yosemite National Park and Redwood National Park for nine years. She has also worked in a machine shop in Indiana, for Schooners for the Sea Education Association, and had a side business for about 15 years as a webmaster and graphic designer.

Jessie has a Master’s in Applied Resource Economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy for Rural Communities.

You can reach Jessie at jessie.huff@usda.gov or 503-414-3314.

Matthew Carter, Single Family Housing Loan Assistant

Matthew Carter is a new Single Family Housing Loan Assistant in our Redmond office.

Prior to joining Rural Development, Matthew worked as a Tax Accountant for a firm in Redmond.

Previously, he served in the Navy as an Aviation Structural Mechanic. He then worked for General Atomics and L3 before deciding to pursue a career as a helicopter pilot. That decision took him from San Diego to Prescott, AZ, which then led to Salt Lake City, UT, and then to Bend, OR.

Matthew graduated from Oregon State Cascades in 2017 with a degree in Accounting. He is looking forward to pursuing his love of finance and helping others through his new position with Rural Development.

You can reach Matthew at matthew.carter4@usda.gov or 541-699-3187.

Richie Holmes, Multi-Family Housing Loan Specialist

Finally, we are pleased to announce that Richie Holmes will soon be joining our Multi-Family Housing Programs team in our Redmond office.

Richie began with Rural Development as an intern, and subsequently worked in our Single Family Housing Programs here in Oregon. He will transition to his new role as a Multi-Family Housing Loan Specialist beginning on February 16.

Prior to joining USDA, Richie served in the Marine Corps. He then worked in commercial architectural sheet metal. After moving to Bend, he worked in the telecommunications industry for BendBroadband and CenturyLink as an account executive.

Richie has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. He can be reached at richard.holmes@usda.gov or 541-699-3197.

Video: A Rural Hospital Success Story

Video: A Rural Hospital Success Story

While stories abound about rural hospitals closing across the country, Curry General Hospital on the southern Oregon coast demonstrates how a rural hospital can expand and thrive.

In Gold Beach, residents were served by a small, outdated facility that was built in the 1950s and could no longer meet patient needs or comply with building codes. Residents had to travel long distances to receive specialized medical care, and the hospital was struggling to retain and recruit doctors.

Watch this short video to learn how the community, with support from USDA’s Community Facilities Program, was able to build a new, modern critical care hospital featuring state-of-the-art medical equipment and expanded services that are vital to enabling residents to continue living and working in the community they call home.

USDA Invests $36 Million to Expand Northwest Oregon Electric Infrastructure

Electric infrastructure

The Tillamook People's Utility District will improve and expand electric infrastructure in rural Tillamook, Yamhill, and Clatsop counties using a $36 million loan provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Infrastructure Loan Program.

This customer-owned utility will improve several miles of both electric transmission and distribution line, as well as install 10 miles of new line.

The improvements made with this funding will increase the utility's distribution capacity, ensure greater reliability of service, and connect an additional 600 customers throughout the utility's service territory. Learn more…

Bridging Oregon’s Digital Divide

Maupin, Oregon

While many people today take internet access for granted, residents of Oregon’s rural and frontier counties face a very different reality. This digital divide affects countless aspects of everyday life, from paying bills to communicating with friends and family, from marketing a business to researching a school paper.

Until a few months ago, the 418 residents of Maupin, Oregon, felt they were on the wrong side of this divide. Then Maupin completed a fiber optic broadband network that provides impressive speeds of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), becoming one of the state’s most competitive communities when it comes to internet access.

In eastern Oregon, the very small communities of Long Creek, Monument, Spray, Seneca, and Canyon City are following Maupin’s example. Learn more in this blog by Oregon Rural Development State Director John Huffman…

Now Accepting Applications for $550 Million Nationwide to Deploy Rural Broadband Infrastructure

Broadband cables

USDA Rural Development has begun accepting applications for the second round of ReConnect Program funding. 

This program, which began in 2018, can help establish internet access in rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service. Proposed projects must create access speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) upload and 3 Mbps download. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities are eligible to apply.

Nationwide, USDA will make available up to $200 million in grants, up to $200 million in grant-loan combinations, and up to $200 million in low-interest loans, not to exceed a total of $550 million. Applications are due by March 16, 2020. Learn more…

To assist potential applicants, USDA is hosting training workshops and online webinars. View the upcoming schedule and register at www.usda.gov/reconnect/events.

USDA Invests $7.4 Million to Help Rural Oregon Businesses and Ag Producers Reduce Energy Costs

Solar panel for an Oregon agricultural operation

Farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses across Oregon are lowering their energy costs with help from $7.4 million provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.

In Ashland, the Italian restaurant Pie + Vine used a $15,800 grant to purchase and install a 26-kilowatt solar array on the roof of its building. This renewable energy system will replace 64 percent of the restaurant’s energy use and reduce its utility bill by $4,215 per year, helping this rural business continue to succeed.

In a rural area outside Portland, a commercial timber and nursery operation used a $2,250 grant to make energy efficiency improvements. By installing energy-efficient cooling systems in its green house, Cedahlia Park will reduce its energy use by 7,200 kilowatt-hours and save $864 on its utility bill each year. Learn more…

Financing provided through the Rural Energy for America Program can be used to install renewable energy systems, such as bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, wind, and solar systems, as well as to make energy efficiency improvements to heating, ventilation, and cooling systems; insulation; lighting; refrigeration; and irrigation systems. Applications for grants are currently being accepted through March 31, 2020. Loan guarantee applications are accepted year-round.

Small Farm Feeds Local Appetite for Sustainable Products

Marion Acres Farm

When Geoff Scott and John Mathia teamed up to open a farm in northwest Oregon, they envisioned producing high-quality meat raised in an environmentally-sustainable manner. Their products were attractive to local customers and sold quickly, enabling them to expand to a 47-acre plot in Hillsboro. However, they struggled to find resources to support their continued growth.

When they discovered the Ag of the Middle Accelerator Program operated by the nonprofit Ecotrust, they decided to enroll. The program, supported by a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, provides technical assistance to small and mid-sized farmers, ranchers, and fishers to help scale up their operations and adopt regenerative agriculture practices.

Ecotrust helped Marion Acres access grant funding and find marketing opportunities. “This training filled the gap,” said Geoff.

Marion Acres is now selling pasture-raised chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and eggs to restaurants in Portland and opening a market on their farm that will offer locally-sourced, organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed products. “Our goal is to provide good-paying jobs and an example of sustainable agriculture,” said Geoff. Learn more …

The Rural Business Development Grant Program supports targeted technical assistance, training, feasibility studies, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas. Last year, Rural Development awarded nearly $480,600 for nine projects to support businesses and create jobs in rural areas.

Public bodies, government entities, Indian tribes, and nonprofits are invited to apply for a Rural Business Development Grant, including a Native American set-aside, through March 31, 2020.

Grants are Available to Help Develop Value-Added Agricultural Products

Video: Making the Value-Added Producer Grant Work for You

Agricultural producers can get help developing and marketing retail consumer products from the stock and crops they raise through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. The grants can be used to create new products, develop additional uses for existing product lines, or to market value-added agricultural products.

Electronic applications must be submitted by March 5, 2020, while paper applications must be received by March 10, 2020.

Learn more in this short video.

Join Us for a Multi-Family Housing Programs Workshop

Multi-Family Housing training workshop

Join USDA Rural Development on Friday, February 14, 2020, at the Salem Convention Center for a free workshop on USDA’s Multi-Family Housing Programs.

Owners, management agents, compliance staff, and regional managers of USDA-financed affordable rural housing will learn about:

  • Accessibility self-evaluations and transition plans;
  • Changes to Handbook 2, Chapter 4;
  • Reserve account policies;
  • Return to ownership issues;
  • Year-end report complications; and
  • Owner and CPA relations

This free workshop is sponsored by the Oregon Affordable Housing Management Association. Hurry! Registration is open through February 7.

Homeownership Helps Rural Family Reduce Expenses

Sandra recently completed building her own home

Sandra and Michael thought homeownership was beyond their reach. They never imagined it was not only possible but that they could reduce their housing expenses by buying a home.

They were living in a manufactured house with their three children and their dog. The home was built in the 1970s, before building codes were updated. It was poorly insulated, had a leak in the roof, and dry rot. They knew they needed to move. Sandra and Michael wanted to buy a house, but they didn’t see how they could afford it.

A friend told them about a program run by the local nonprofit Community Home Builders. The nonprofit uses a USDA Mutual Self-House Housing grant to guide families through building their own homes, providing oversight and construction assistance while the families reduce the price with their own labor. The families also receive affordable mortgages through USDA. When the family learned the next subdivision would be built in McMinnville, they applied immediately.

Achieving homeownership through this program required dedication. Sandra and Michael spent about two years improving their credit, and then worked with a group of families over 11 months to build each others’ homes on nights and weekends.

Sandra and Michael then received a low-interest mortgage loan from USDA with no down payment required. “There was no possible way we could have bought a brand new four-bedroom house without this program,” said Sandra.

Not only did Sandra and Michael achieve their dream of homeownership, they reduced their housing expenses by about $300 per month. Learn more…

Inside This Edition

Open Application Windows

Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Products Manufacturing Assistance Program Letter of Intent Deadline: March 2, 2020
Application Deadline: April 1, 2020

Individuals, corporations, federally-recognized tribes, state and local government entities, cooperatives, associations of agricultural producers, national laboratories, institutions of higher education, and public power entities can apply for loan guarantees to support the commercial-scale development of biofuels that use renewable feedstock. Learn more…

Value Added Producer Grant Program
Deadline: March 5, 2020

Independence producers, agricultural operators, farmer or rancher cooperatives, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures can apply for grants to develop new products from raw agricultural products and expand marketing opportunities. Learn more…

ReConnect Program
Deadline: March 16, 2020

Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers, and municipalities can apply for low-interest loans, grants, or loan and grant combinations to establish internet access in rural areas that currently lack sufficient service; up to $550 million is available nationwide. Learn more…

Agriculture Innovation Center Program
Deadline: March 20, 2020

Nonprofits, for-profit corporations, public bodies, and institutions of higher education can apply for technical assistance grants, which the recipients will use to help rural businesses and agricultural producers develop and market value-added agricultural products. Learn more…

Rural Business Development Grant Program
Deadline (extended): March 31, 2020

Public bodies, government entities, Indian tribes, and nonprofits can apply for grants, including a Native American set-aside, to support businesses and help create jobs in rural areas. Learn more…

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvements
Grant Deadline: March 31, 2020
Loan Guarantee Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

Agricultural producers and rural small businesses can apply for grants and loan guarantees to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Learn more…

Water and Waste Disposal Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

State and local government entities, private nonprofits, and Federally-recognized tribes can apply for loans and grants to build or improve drinking water, waste disposal, or storm water drainage systems in rural areas. Learn more…

Community Facilities Program
Deadline: Applications accepted year-round

Public bodies, community-based nonprofits, and Federally-recognized tribes can apply for loans and grants to build or improve essential community facilities such as schools and hospitals in rural areas. Learn more…