20160802-RD-TPE-0200 / U.S. Department of Agriculture

October 4, 2016; Farm Forum

October is Co-op Month, and on Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA is awarding $5.8 million to 29 grantees in 22 states to help expand rural cooperatives. The grants will be made available through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program.

“America’s rural communities have incredible potential to create jobs and expand economic opportunities,” Vilsack said. “Many rural businesses and organizations are succeeding under the cooperative business model, and with access to additional resources, they can boost job creation and create an environment where more products are made in rural America. The funding USDA is announcing today will provide the critical training and technical assistance rural cooperatives and nonprofit groups need to help strengthen America’s ‘Main Street’ businesses.”

One representative grantee is the Ohio Cooperative Development Center (OCDC) at Ohio State University’s South Centers campus. OCDC has been awarded a $199,984 grant to help businesses and individuals in rural Ohio and West Virginia to support cooperatives in energy and wood products. In all, it projects it will help 20 existing businesses and eight startups. Another is the Texas Rural Cooperative Center at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which will receive $199,393 to help start, expand, and improve cooperatives and mutually owned businesses in Texas and New Mexico.

These grants are explicitly made as part of USDA’s observance of National Cooperative Month, which, each October, highlights the economic impact and innovation of cooperative businesses in rural areas.

USDA says in its press release that it has provided $50.5 million for 257 cooperative grants for projects nationwide since the start of the Obama administration and that this money has helped more than 4,700 businesses.—Ruth McCambridge