USDA Rural Development Helps Small-town Wyoming Thrive
By Glenn Pauley
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development has many programs supporting rural Wyoming prosperity. These programs include: single-family and multi-family housing; infrastructure; community facilities including hospitals, senior centers and fire stations; business diversification; business planning; renewable energy; high speed internet and much more. Currently, Rural Development oversees nearly 70 programs providing resources and funding for projects in rural areas.
Rural Development programs range in population eligibility. The programs cannot be used in Cheyenne or Casper, but we are able to support projects in most rural towns throughout the state. You may have heard about the recent work in helping to bring hospitals to Saratoga, Pinedale and Riverton.
Rural Development provides financial assistance through both grants and loans; however, we are primarily a lender. When I first started my position as the Wyoming state director, I was disappointed to learn more grant dollars were not available. However, since then, I have developed a greater appreciation for how loans can be advantageous for rural families, businesses and communities, as well as taxpayers.
There are several Rural Development programs available to agricultural producers. The Value-Added Producer Grant program supports agricultural producers entering into activities to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income. For example, grant dollars may be spent for processing costs, marketing and advertising and some inventory and salary expenses.
The Rural Energy for America Program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. There are also programs available for farm labor housing and meat processing.
USDA Rural Development has a very thorough underwriting process. This ensures borrowers have the capacity to repay loans and projects are modest in size, scope and design.
Wyoming Rural Development has very low loan default rates in all programs. The focus on “modest” maximizes the efficient use of project dollars and directs spending to supporting true needs.
Larger community projects are often funded through a combination of grants and loans. This is particularly true for those addressing human health and safety issues such as Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs.
The proportion of grant versus loan funding is determined by what the community can afford. Economically-challenged communities receive a higher proportion of grant dollars, while loan amounts may be set to be within the community’s ability to pay. The combination of grants and loans allows communities to take on larger projects than otherwise would be possible without federal funding.
For businesses, Rural Development does not make direct loans. Instead, we can issue 80 percent loan guarantees to commercial banks. Business borrowers must have adequate repayment ability, equity and collateral. Various grant programs are also available for rural small businesses.
Affordable housing is a major issue throughout Wyoming. Rural Development’s Single Family Housing Program direct loan interest rate, when modified by payment assistance, can be as low as one percent. Direct loan terms can be for as long as 33 years to 38 years, and can cover most homes on a permitted and permanent foundation including manufactured homes and tiny houses.
Borrowers must have decent credit and a stable income. This is a great program providing a path to homeownership for low- and very-low families, or individuals including teachers, police officers, municipal workers and nurses who form the foundation of our communities.
The bottom line is, Rural Development wants to see small-town Wyoming thrive. Just like other types of financial assistance, a considerable amount of information must be submitted for the application. The Rural Development application process provides access to experts in project development and financial planning.
This enables the borrower to establish short-term and long-term strategies to address even the most daunting community challenges. The process is free and Rural Development employees assisting with loan applications typically have an in-depth understanding of other funding sources at the local, state and federal level.
For project recommendations, contact USDA Rural Development at 307-233-6700. There may be a Rural Development program with grant dollars available, but do not overlook the loans which are a proven, cost-effective method for advancing rural prosperity. USDA Rural Development program information can be found at rd.usda.gov/wy.
Glenn Pauley is the Wyoming state director for USDA Rural Development.