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Agriculture Secretary Announces Funding to Support Small Socially Disadvantaged Producers and Renewable Energy Projects

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today visited Jackson, Miss., and announced new investments to support producers and rural communities throughout Mississippi. The Secretary announced funding for renewable energy projects, projects to improve public health in the Mississippi Delta region and awards to support small, socially-disadvantaged agriculture producers. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

"Rural Americans contribute a great deal to our nation, and today's investments will help strengthen rural businesses and communities in Mississippi," Vilsack said. "These awards will help improve rural health facilities in the Delta Region, help socially-disadvantaged business owners expand markets across the nation, and help small businesses save energy and grow their bottom line."

Funding is being provided through USDA's Small Socially Disadvantaged Producer (SSDP) Grant program, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Delta Health Care Services Grant Program.

Under the Small Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant Program, five grants were awarded in Mississippi totaling nearly $1 million in investment. The objective of this program is to provide technical assistance to qualified producers to help expand and improve their operation. For example, a Mississippi organization is receiving a grant to conduct seven training sessions for small meat goat producers that will focus on risk management.

Additionally, Secretary Vilsack announced funding for seven Rural Energy for America Program projects that will help agriculture producers and small businesses in rural Mississippi reduce energy consumption and adopt renewable energy tools. REAP is authorized under the soon-to-expire 2008 Farm Bill. Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has helped fund nearly 8,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.

Vilsack also announced the award of grants for three projects in Mississippi to meet the healthcare needs of residents living in the Delta region. More than $1.8 million in healthcare grants is being provided through the Delta Health Care Services Grant Program. This program was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to address the unmet health needs of Delta residents. The program is a collaborative effort among healthcare professionals, institutions of higher education, research institutions and other entities.

The funding announced today is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement.

Small Socially Disadvantage Producer Grant Program

  • Mississippi Association of Cooperatives –$199,998 grant. Funds will be used to help eligible producers develop business and marketing plans, coordinate strategic planning sessions, and conduct training workshops.
  • Mississippi Meat Goat Producers – $200,000 grant. Funds will be used to conduct seven training sessions focusing on five key risk management areas for goat meat producers.
  • North Delta Producer Growers Association – $185,000 grant. Funds will be used to provide technical assistance to transfer the management and operation of the Alcorn State University vegetable processing facility to the cooperative.
  • Tri Country Agricultural Cooperative – $199,842 grant. Funds will be used help producers develop of diversified marketing strategies and develop agricultural businesses.
  • Winston County Self Help Association, Inc. – $200,000 grant. Funds will be used to provide business development, resource management, and legal assistance to eligible producers.

Rural Energy for America Program – Mississippi Recipients

  • Seward and Son Planting Company, Louise, Miss. – $49,625 grant. Funds will be used to replace a grain dryer.
  • Tuyet T. Vo, Union, Miss. –$26,446 grant. Funds will be used to replace lighting, doors, fans, brooders and insulation in poultry houses.
  • John Nguyen, Decatur, Miss. – $22,115 grant. Funds will be used to install controllers, baffle curtains, fans, brooders and doors in poultry houses.
  • Synergetics DCS, Inc., Starkville, Miss. – $230,122 grant. Funds will be used to install a solar energy system.
  • Synergetics Properties, LLC, Starkville, Miss. –$125,000 grant. Funds will be used to install a solar energy system.
  • David Palmer, LLC, Starkville, Miss. – $40,625 grant. Funds will be used to install a solar energy system.
  • Willie R. Gilbert, Lake, Miss. – $23,067 grant. Funds will be used to install brooders, doors, cool cells, fans, vents and lighting in poultry houses.

Delta Health Care Services Grant Program

Mississippi

  • Delta Health Alliance, Inc. – $900,000 grant. Funds will be used to improve facilities at a rural health clinic and establish a telehealth network linking several medical facilities.
  • Delta State University – $477,452 grant. Funds will be used to provide advanced training for mental health counselors, and provide mental health care services to children and teens.
  • University of Mississippi Medical Center – $461,405 grant. Funds will be used to establish a telehealth network, support continuing education for health care workers, and provide health and wellness education services.

Secretary Vilsack noted that today's funding announcements are 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 he said that's just one reason why Congress must get a 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. President Obama and 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.

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