Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Small Business Week by highlighting USDA's actions to help rural small businesses create jobs, get access to capital and spur economic growth. He also announced the selection of recipients for USDA's Rural Business Enterprise Grants. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty.
"Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in small towns and rural communities, just as they are in our biggest cities," Vilsack said. "USDA supports small businesses by providing job training, business development opportunities, strategic community planning and other resources. We're focused on making sure that Main Street businesses have the tools they need to grow."
Secretary Vilsack announced 54 awards under the Rural Business Enterprise Grants program in 21 states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
USDA has several initiatives underway to support small businesses and the communities they serve. Altogether, USDA business and cooperative development programs have had a significant impact on rural communities -- achieving record results under President Obama. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 15,000 loans and grants through its business programs, helping more than 60,000 rural small businesses. For more information on USDA's business and cooperative development programs, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Business.html.
This assistance has also been directed toward historically underserved communities. For example, USDA Rural Development is working closely with the Appalachian Regional Commission on a public/private partnership to help economies prosper. This partnership is intended to create a stronger and more diversified Appalachian economy. It compliments several other initiatives USDA has in place. Additionally, USDA is working in persistent poverty areas in 16 states to leverage local partnerships and grow the economy through its StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.
Rural small businesses are encouraged to contact their nearest USDA Rural Development office for information about available assistance. A list of these offices is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
The funding announced today under the Rural Business Enterprise Grants program will help support the Obama Administration's vision by providing rural communities with resources to support small businesses, improve public facilities, and create new, sustainable jobs. Funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions for the grant.
The Rural Business Enterprise Grant program also supports the development of local food systems. For example, in 2010, the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., received a $35,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to support the county's Farm Fresh program. It is designed to enhance agri-tourisim. As a result, EDC provides transportation for more than 2,300 visitors from metropolitan areas to small farms and vineyards throughout rural New York. The funding has increased tourism in rural New York and expanded markets for several small businesses.
Rural Business Enterprise Grants and other USDA programs help rural small businesses manufacture new products, expand local food systems and create jobs. Secretary Vilsack continued a call this week for Congress to pass a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible. Leaders from both parties have signaled a willingness to come together and get this critically important legislation passed. On June 10, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan version of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Secretary Vilsack noted that he is encouraged by signs that the House of Representatives will consider a bill this week.
President Obama's plan to revitalize the rural economy has brought about historic investment over the past four years -- including in America's small towns and rural communities. USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.