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USDA highlights 2012 investments to build stronger rural communities

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued a report Jan. 9 highlighting USDA Rural Development's fiscal year 2012 investments in job creation, businesses, infrastructure and housing for Americans living in rural communities across the nation.

"President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment in rural communities that have made them stronger," Vilsack said. "Thanks to our loan, grant and technical assistance programs, USDA Rural Development is helping residents and rural enterprises thrive, and we are laying a strong foundation for rural America's future."

With an active portfolio of more than $176 billion in loans and loan guarantees, Rural Development has provided affordable housing, improved utility infrastructure, and helped businesses and cooperatives create jobs, build rural economies and increase the quality of life in rural areas. For a full copy of the 2012 Progress Report, go to http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/SupportDocuments/RD2012ProgressReport.pdf.

For example, in 2012, nearly 64,000 rural residents received new or better access to broadband Internet service. Under the Rural Utilities Program, Rural Development provided approximately $4.7 billion in electric loans, $173 million in telecommunications loans and grants, and $1.4 billion in water and waste disposal loan and grants.

Through its Community Facilities loan and grant program, Rural Development provided more than $8.6 million to construct or improve 48 rural libraries, and provided more than $888 million in assistance for 243 projects to improve the delivery of health care for rural Americans. All told, Rural Development provided more than $1.5 billion in community facilities loans and grants to develop or improve essential facilities like these in rural areas.

In addition to the efforts to support education and health care, another key aspect of the Community Facilities program is the ability to support emergency responders. For example, Rural Development provided $387,000 to Madison, Fla., for an aerial ladder truck for fire protection. Over the years, prior to receiving assistance from USDA Rural Development, a number of Madison's local businesses and other buildings were destroyed by fires because the city lacked equipment that could fight fires in multi-story structures.

Rural Development is also the lead agency ensuring that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes. In 2012, Rural Development helped 7,940 families with low incomes obtain safe, affordable homes, providing approximately $900.9 million in single-family direct subsidized loans. Under the single-family guaranteed loan program, Rural Development helped more than 145,100 moderate-income families purchase single-family homes. More than 7,000 rural individuals or families were able to repair their homes under the home repair loan and grant program.

In 2012, USDA Rural Development assisted more than 270,000 low- and very-low-income families, who were able to live in safe, multi-family housing thanks to $904.7 million in rental assistance to bring their rents to an affordable level.

Rural Development also helped approximately 1,700 families move into new apartment units through $122.6 million for low-income rental housing development, $104.3 million in guaranteed loans for moderate-income rental housing development, and $5.5 million for multi-family housing for farm workers and their families.

Through Rural Development's business and cooperative loan, grant and technical assistance programs, the agency helped about 9,700 rural small business owners or farmers improve their enterprises in 2012. Business and cooperative program funding created or saved more than 53,000 rural jobs in 2012. Rural Development provided slightly more than $1 billion in Business and Industry loan guarantees, $25.5 million in Rural Business Enterprise grants, $50.3 million in Rural Economic Development loans and grants, $17.5 million in Intermediary Relending Program loans, and $40.4 million in Value Added Producer Grants in 2012.

For example, Vermont's Brattleboro Food Co-op leveraged a $4.2 million Rural Development Business and Industry guaranteed loan to raise more than $1 million from co-op members to expand its retail store in Brattleboro, make it more energy-efficient and strengthen the co-op's long-term viability. The co-op started in 1975 as a small buying club that has since grown into a natural foods market serving 5,000 members.

The co-op's new, energy-efficient 33,840-square-foot building--almost twice the size of the original store--is an anchor business in downtown Brattleboro. The larger store will add market capacity for about 200 local farmers and food producers who supply the co-op with products. The cutting-edge, environmentally friendly building will even use recycled waste heat generated from the store's refrigeration equipment to heat water for the facility. The co-op expansion supports more than 100 high-quality local jobs.

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

Date: 1/21/2013



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