USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the awarding of $3 million for 19 grants to provide technical assistance to socially disadvantaged business groups in rural areas.
"This funding will provide technical assistance to help socially disadvantaged businesses succeed," Vilsack said. "It will support rural communities by giving business owners access to the support and training they need to start businesses or make their operations more successful."
USDA is making the grants available through the Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant Program (formerly the Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant Program). This program supports technical assistance such as feasibility studies, leadership and training, and the development of business and strategic plans.
The 19 investments announced today are being made to recipients in 14 states. For example, the South Central Farmers' Health Education Fund, in Sun Valley, Calif., has been selected to receive a $37,400 grant to determine the feasibility of raising tilapia and growing plants in a recirculated aquaponics system.
North Leupp Family Farms Inc., in Leupp, Ariz., is receiving a $174,946 grant to provide technical assistance to at least 30 socially disadvantaged producers on the Navajo Nation. The technical assistance includes assessing producers' needs, helping producers use modern technology, developing marketing strategies and connecting producers to other USDA programs.
Funding of each award announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of their grant agreement.
Past recipients of these awards are having a significant impact in their communities. For example, Coastal Communities Consulting, Inc. is helping fishermen in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in Louisiana increase sales and develop new markets. Their seafood products are an important part of Louisiana's rural economy and tourism industry.
Coastal Communities received a $200,000 Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant from USDA in September 2014. The businesses it is helping are in economically challenged areas served by USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Through StrikeForce, USDA leverages resources and collaborates with partners and stakeholders to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life in communities that need its services the most.
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.