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Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding to Support Small and Emerging Rural Businesses

MEMPHIS, Tenn., July 31, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that projects in 30 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will be funded to support small and emerging rural businesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno made the announcement on behalf of Secretary Vilsack during a visit to highlight the activities of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Inc., regarding an ongoing project that was previously announced.

"The Obama Administration has been working to create economic opportunities in rural communities and bring well-paying jobs to the people who live there," Salerno said. "Strategic investments in rural businesses like the ones we are highlighting today not only help to deliver more products and services to local customers, they also contribute to rural revitalization and economic development in the small towns where these businesses are located."

The funding was made available through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program, which promotes development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. RBEGs may also be used to help fund distance learning networks and employment-related adult education programs. Eligible applicants for the program include public bodies, nonprofit corporations and federally recognized Indian Tribes. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the RBEG program has helped create or save more than 73,000 rural jobs, provided over $170.9 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, and expanded health care and educational facilities, and has either expanded or helped establish almost 41,070 rural businesses and community projects.

Salerno visited the Memphis Bioworks Foundation to be briefed on progress of a $45,000 grant that is being used to expand the "Soldier to Civilian" (S2C) project. The S2C project was launched by the Crockett Policy Institute in rural west Tennessee to help veterans returning home find employment, and meet the need for qualified agriculture workers in the area. Memphis Bioworks has teamed with the Institute on the S2C project, and the grant will enable the program to be extended to 110 counties in the Delta areas of Arksansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Today's announcement includes a complete listing of the 131 recipients receiving more than $6.5 million in USDA funding. The funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

The RBEG program finances a broad range of business projects. For example, last year, USDA provided an RBEG to furnish a conference facility at the new terminal for Kaolin Field Airport in Sandersville, Georgia.

According to Administrator Salerno, today's announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and she said that's just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

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. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.

USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users)

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