Agriculture Department offers $5.9 million for development in rural areas

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced today $5.9 million in economic development grants are available to assist in cooperative development ventures through establishing and operating cooperative development centers as part of an effort to increase economic opportunities in rural areas.

“These centers for rural cooperative development offer rural citizens the resources needed to support the expansion of economic opportunities within their community,” said Johanns. “Up to a quarter of the funding being made available will focus on assisting small, minority producers through cooperative businesses — a critical component of the funds being announced today.”

The cooperative development grant program is administered through USDA Rural Development. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and are intended to foster rural cooperative development through projects that provide rural residents with education and technical assistance in areas of cooperative startup, marketing and managing, and other self-help tools.

In Washington and Montana, for example, Johanns said approximately $467,000 in grant funds have been awarded over the last two years to Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC) to encourage renewable energy efforts through a pilot effort by Our Wind Cooperative (OWC). NWCDC facilitated their transition to a cooperative structure and continues to function as the group’s fiscal manager. This cooperative is a pilot project to determine the feasibility of small wind turbines on the farm. OWC was formed to sell environmental attributes or green tags. To date, the cooperative has coordinated the installation of six wind turbines in agricultural areas of Washington state and Montana.

The deadline for submitting a grant application is July 1, 2005. Further information on the rural cooperative development grant program and application requirements can be found on USDA Rural Development’s Web site at, or you can contact any USDA Rural Development office for assistance.