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Guest Opinions

USDA Rural Development Serves Rural Communities

Written by Andrew Lynch

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Through a series of public laws and acts enacted by Congress, Rural Development is designed to enhance rural communities by targeting financial and technical resources to areas of greatest need.

USDA Rural Development is divided into three agencies with unique missions to bring prosperity and opportunity to rural areas – Rural Housing Service, Rural Utilities Service and Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

Rural Housing Service

USDA’s Rural Housing Service offers a variety of programs to build or improve housing and essential community facilities in rural areas. We offer loans, grants and loan guarantees for single- and multi-family housing, child care centers, fire and police stations, hospitals, libraries, nursing homes, schools, first responder vehicles and equipment, housing for farm laborers and much more.

We also provide technical assistance loans and grants in partnership with non-profit organizations, Indian tribes, state and federal government agencies and local communities.

USDA’s Single Family Housing Programs provide direct loans or loan guarantees to help low- and moderate-income rural Americans buy safe, affordable housing in rural areas. USDA also offers loans and grants to help rural residents make health and safety repairs to homes.

USDA’s Multi-Family Housing Programs offer loans to provide affordable rental housing for very-low-, low- and moderate-income residents, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Funds also may be used to buy and improve land and to provide necessary facilities such as water and waste disposal systems.

In addition, USDA offers rental assistance to help eligible rural residents with their monthly rental costs.

USDA’s Community Facilities Programs provide loans, grants and loan guarantees for essential community facilities in rural areas. Priority is given to health care, education and public safety projects. Typical projects are hospitals, health clinics, schools, fire houses, community centers, first responder vehicles and equipment and many other community-based initiatives.

Rural utilities service

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) administers programs that provide much-needed infrastructure or infrastructure improvements to rural communities. These include water and waste treatment, electric power and telecommunications services.

Utilities programs connect rural residents to the global economy by increasing access to broadband and 21st century telecommunications services; funding sustainable renewable energy development and conservation; financing reliable and affordable electric systems; working to integrate electric smart grid technologies; and developing reliable and affordable rural water and wastewater systems.

Water and Environmental Programs

Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) provides loans, grants and loan guarantees for drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural areas and cities and towns of 10,000 or less. Public bodies, non-profit organizations and recognized Indian tribes may qualify for assistance.

WEP also makes grants to non-profit organizations to provide technical assistance and training to help rural communities with their water, wastewater and solid waste problems.

Electricity

The Electric Program provides capital and leadership to maintain, expand, upgrade and modernize America’s vast rural electric infrastructure. The loans and loan guarantees finance the construction or improvement of electric distribution, transmission and generation facilities in rural areas.

The Electric Program also provides funding to support demand-side management, energy efficiency and conservation programs, and on- and off-grid renewable energy systems.

Loans are made to cooperatives, corporations, states, territories, subdivisions, municipalities, utility districts and non-profit organizations.

Telecommunications

The Telecommunications Program improves the quality of life in rural America by providing capital for the deployment of rural telecommunications infrastructure. USDA Rural Development is committed to ensuring that rural areas have access to affordable, reliable, advanced telecommunications services comparable to those available throughout the rest of the United States.

With this access, rural America will see improved educational opportunities, health care, safety and security and ultimately, higher employment.

Rural Business-Cooperative Service

USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service offers programs to support business development and job training opportunities for rural residents.

Our programs help provide the capital, technical support, educational opportunities and entrepreneurial skills that can help rural residents start and grow businesses or access jobs in agricultural markets and in the bio-based economy.

USDA and our public and private partners are connecting rural residents to the global economy by supporting business growth and development; facilitating sustainable renewable energy development; developing regional food systems; generating and retaining jobs through recreation and natural resource restoration, conservation, and management; and increasing access to broadband.

These investments support the nation’s long-term prosperity by ensuring that rural communities are self-sustaining, repopulating and thriving economically.

Business programs

Through its business programs, Rural Development helps provide much-needed capital in rural areas, often in partnership with private-sector lenders and community-based organizations.

The capital may be in the form of loan guarantees, direct loans or grants to individuals, rural businesses, cooperatives, farmers and ranchers, public bodies, non-profit corporations, Native American Tribes and private companies. The funding is intended to help improve the quality of life in rural communities by enhancing economic opportunities.

Cooperation

USDA’s Cooperative Programs promote the understanding and use of the cooperative form of business. Cooperatives market and distribute agricultural products and supplies and provide other services such as electricity, telecommunications, credit and financial services, housing, food, hardware and building supplies.

USDA Rural Development helps rural residents form new cooperatives and improve the operations of existing ones through education, research, technical assistance, publications and funding. We collect financial and other data from farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives every year. This data is published in several reports, including a listing of almost 1,500 marketing, supply, service, fishery and bargaining cooperatives.

Community development

USDA’s Community Development Programs include programs, technical assistance and initiatives that help communities and regions to realize their strategic, long-term economic development goals.

Contact us at the USDA Rural Development office in Casper with questions or to get started on an application. We can be found at 100 East B Street, Room 1005 in Casper. Visit our website at rd.usda.og/wy to find specific office contacts, program information, read stories of success and more. If you have any other questions, feel free to call 307-233-6700 for more information.