Wednesday, June 23, 2010

$45 Million Investment in Rural Entrepreneurship

Back on June 3 the USDA announced the availability of $45 million for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. It's a new initiative, established in the 2008 Farm Bill, that will make grants to organizations that provide training, technical assistance or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses with ten or fewer employees. Last week the USDA published the long-awaited rules for how the Rural Micro program will be administered and followed that today with a Notice of Funding Availability published in the Federal Register today.

"The Obama Administration and USDA understand that helping small, start-up businesses is fundamental in building a sustainable rural community," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "This new program will help provide access to capital, business-based training and technical assistance to the smallest of small businesses. We need to embrace new strategies to help create a thriving rural economy."

Applications will be accepted throughout the year and awarded on a quarterly basis. For fiscal year 2010, applications must be received by July 16, 2010. The total amount available in fiscal year 2010 is $45 million - $36.2 million for loans, $7.6 million for microlender technical assistance grants and $1.3 million available for technical assistance-only grants. Potential applicants can find out more in the June 3rd Federal Register, page 31413, (, and should obtain an application from the USDA Rural Development Office in their state. Additionally, applicants are encouraged to contact the Center for Rural Affairs's USDA/Farm Bill helpline at (402) 687-2100 (just ask for the helpline).

This is a good investment in rural America. And the program balances support for lending, training and technical assistance, improving access to all the resources that rural entrepreneurs need to get their business up and running," said Steph Larsen of the Center for Rural Affairs. "Rural America has much to contribute to our nation's economic recovery, and the Rural Micro program capitalizes on the fact that most new rural jobs are created in firms with fewer than ten employees by focusing resources on small business startups of that size."

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