USDA Rural Development initiatives created 75,000 jobs in 2013

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

COLUMBIA, MO -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued a report highlighting the impact of more than $33 billion in USDA investments to support rural businesses, infrastructure and housing in 2013. More than 175,000 homes were purchased; 120,000 broadband connections made and 1,000 community facilities funded.

"This report tells the story of how USDA support has made a tremendous difference in the lives of rural Americans," Vilsack said. "Our investments help create jobs and opportunity for rural residents, provide affordable housing, support modern infrastructure and build essential community facilities. I am proud of the role that USDA has played to grow rural economies and help make rural America a place of opportunity, innovation and economic growth."

USDA Rural Development's $193 billion portfolio is making lasting investments in rural communities. The report highlights several initiatives that are helping to address persistent rural poverty, expand health care for Mississippi Delta residents, and develop stronger partnerships between government, private-sector and community-based organizations.

Missouri Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning said, "We are very fortunate to have great staff and engaged partners in Missouri. This combination allowed us to return $962,173,795 in taxpayer dollars to the state. These investments allowed 243 community projects to be completed and 20,341 families and individuals to have a place to call home. I am proud of our staff and grateful to our partners for the success of our programs."

Since the start of the Obama administration, USDA business programs have provided more than 18,000 guaranteed loans, direct loans and grants to help more than 74,000 businesses create or save more than 375,000 jobs. USDA is increasingly becoming the lender of choice for many Native American tribes throughout the country.

USDA programs support research into new energy sources and help protect the environment. During the two last quarters of fiscal year 2013, USDA made payments to operators of 56 anaerobic digesters that produced almost 173 million kilowatt hours of electricity -- enough to power more than 17,000 homes annually.

USDA broadband infrastructure loans awarded in fiscal year 2013 will result in new or upgraded broadband service for about 120,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions once the projects are completed. The department also continued to make great strides to bring distance learning and telemedicine infrastructure to rural areas. In 2013, one-third of USDA's distance learning grants went to rural areas where the minority population is 30 percent or higher. Another third went to areas were poverty rates have been consistently high over long periods. All of the awards went to rural areas where residents lacked access to medical services.

Rural Development is a key player in the recovery of the nation's housing market, particularly in rural areas. For many realtors, USDA Rural Development loans account for most of their business. In 2013, nearly 163,000 rural families became homeowners through loans from private lenders that were guaranteed by USDA, and more than 7,000 families bought homes through direct loans from USDA.

USDAs homeownership program is complemented by assistance that helps rural residents find affordable rental housing. Tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent for decent, safe housing. Last year, USDA provided rental assistance to nearly 280,000 rural residents. Including the residents who get rental assistance, more than half a million rural Americans live in rental housing financed or directly supported by USDA.

USDAs Rural Housing Service invested in more than 1,000 essential community infrastructure projects with $1.4 billion in direct loans, guaranteed loans and grants in fiscal year 2013. An example in Missouri is a $5,320,000 Community Facility Direct Loan to CMH Properties to construct a 28,281 square foot nursing educational facility in Bolivar. The facility will house classrooms, a laboratory and a skills lab. The new facility will allow the expansion of class size for registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, certified nurse assistant, medical administrative assistant, medical assistant and medical laboratory technology programs.

In other areas, the report indicates that USDAs Rural Utilities service helped meet the power needs of 8.7 million rural customers last year by providing nearly $5 billion in loans to electric utilities. These loans helped build and expand transmission and distribution systems. During fiscal year 2013, USDA helped bring new and improved electric infrastructure to more than 80,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives and invested a record amount, $275 million, on infrastructure projects benefitting them.

One of the many examples of how USDA Rural Development in Missouri investments is helping rural businesses and communities is the bio-based company Enginuity Worldwide LLC in Columbia. Enginuity received a $500,000 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant for development of a solid biomass fuel production facility. The REAP Grant will be combined with a minimum of $1.5 million in private funds. This project will utilize renewable biomass materials to produce 18,000 tons of biomass fuel annually which will be sold to municipal utilities for electric power generation. The project is anticipated to create 20 jobs.

Four local food projects were funded through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program. The cities of Perryville, Lamar and Trenton were awarded $19,500, $20,000 and $25,250 grants, respectively, to construct or improve local farmers' markets. Lincoln University in Jefferson City received a $14,214 grant to purchase a refrigerated truck for transporting produce to market and to provide technical assistance to cooperative members in areas of marketing, sustainability, entrepreneurial and management strategies.

Four families in Butler County became homeowners in 2013 after moving into houses they jointly built through USDAs Mutual Self-Help Housing program. The group worked with oversight from Self-Help Enterprises, a pioneer in the "Sweat Equity" concept of homebuilding.

For additional information on Missouri Rural Development projects, please visit Missouri's website at www.rurdev.usda.gov/MO-Home.html. USDA Rural Development's new interactive web map featuring program funding and success stories for the past four fiscal years can be found at www.rurdev.usda.gov/RDSuccessStories.html.

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. USDAs investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of American values.