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Merrigan awards $4.8 million in rural economic development grants

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan recently announced that 28 organizations in 21 states have been selected to receive $4.8 million in grants to spur economic development and create jobs in rural communities. This announcement comes as part of the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, a USDA-wide collaboration that will connect people more closely with the farmers who supply their food and increase the production, marketing and consumption of fresh, nutritious food that is grown locally in a sustainable manner.

"The cooperative business model continues to be a successful in creating wealth in rural communities and can also play an important role in strengthening our food systems," Merrigan said. "USDA is proud to be a partner in the effort to bolster these cooperatives and help them increase the value and appeal of the products and services they deliver."

For example, Rural Development is awarding a $200,000 grant to The Ohio State University Research Foundation to support the foundation's efforts to help individuals and new and emerging cooperative business entities. The Foundation will provide technical assistance to a statewide farmers' market management network cooperative, and a newly formed purchasing cooperative for businesses in Appalachia.

Meanwhile, the Value-Added Agriculture Development Center in Pierre, S.D., has been selected to receive a $200,000 grant to continue supporting the creation of producer-owned, value-added agriculture. The Center will help local growers educate the public, lenders and producers about the benefits of value-added agriculture. These efforts often increase sales of locally grown crops in addition to increasing local agriculture's contribution to area residents' health and to the local economy.

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