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USDA seeks applications for rural business grants
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The United States Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for grants to help promote sustainable economic development and job creation in rural communities.

"Cooperative enterprises often lead economic growth and job creation in rural areas," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "USDA is offering grants to help organizations start cooperatives, expand existing ones or help develop business opportunities in rural areas."

USDA is offering Rural Cooperative Development Grants to non-profit corporations and institutions of higher education. The grants also may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services.

One-year grants up to $175,000 are available. In most cases, grants may be used to pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and operating rural cooperative development centers. Recipients are required to match 25 percent of the award amount. The grant period should begin no earlier than Oct. 1, and no later than Jan. 1, 2013.

Many RCDG recipients have a long history of job creation and economic development. In Great Falls, MT, the Montana Cooperative Development Center has helped 123 entities and guided the formation of 37 cooperatives since its inception in 1999. One of these cooperatives, the Last Chance Café, in Sunburst, MT, near the Canadian border, would have closed without help from the development center and its USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. This iconic café is once again a successful local diner and a gathering spot for the local community.

Applications for Rural Business Opportunity Grants are due Aug. 6. Application materials can be obtained at Contact the USDA Rural Development State Office for more information at (530) 792-5800.

In addition, USDA is offering almost $2.37 million in grants through USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Opportunity Grant.  The program promotes sustainable economic development in rural communities and regions with exceptional needs.

For example, in 2011, USDA Rural Development awarded Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission a $90,000 grant to assist with the development of a local food prospectus for rural areas in the tri-state region of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The Commission will use the grant award with partner agencies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa to improve the local food opportunities in the tri-state region. The two-year effort will identify agricultural strengths, regional opportunities, and recommend a unified network of processing, storage, and distribution facilities throughout the region.

The RBOG program provides training and technical assistance grants for business development, entrepreneurs, and economic development officials and assists with economic development planning. Funding is available to rural public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Native American tribes and cooperatives with primarily rural members that conduct activities for the mutual benefit of the membership.

More information on this grant can be found at