October 12, 2011
On October 3, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recipients of USDA’s 2011 Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG), which support regional planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas. Thirty-seven awards totaling more than $2.5 million were granted to various organizations in 27 states. Out of the 37 awards, the program granted five of the awards to projects that touch on local and regional food system development.
Indian Country Agriculture Resource Development Corporation was granted $72,200 through RBOG to provide business training to 20-24 Native American agricultural entrepreneurs. The training will include general business planning, feasibility and risk assessment, marketing techniques, and financial planning. The goal of the training is to assist Native American agricultural producers in supplying meat and vegetable products to food deserts in southwestern Oklahoma.
Wallace Centers of Iowa, a hub for community engagement and organizing, received an RBOG grant for $50,000 to establish a program that will provide education, mentoring, support, expertise, and commercial space and equipment to create, test, process, and package new food products. The services will be targeted toward farmers, entrepreneurs, gardeners, and individuals within a 12-county area in southwest Iowa who want to add value to their locally-grown crops by developing related food products.
Mid Iowa Development Association Council of Governments is an intergovernmental agency that helps local governments in six counties in Iowa improve their capacity to implement services by defining regional issues, problems, and opportunities. An RBOG grant of $50,000 will be used by the agency to develop a master plan for an expansion of an existing agricultural park. The park will host wind, biotechnology, and food processing industries that can utilize the corn and bean production of the surrounding area for value-added processing.
Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a non-profit organization that is expanding the biosciences industry as whole in the greater Memphis area, intends to use their $149,000 RBOG grant to expand AgBioWorks, a regional collaboration that supports and encourages alternative crop production and processing pilot trials that can be replicated across the region based on identified local markets.
Energize Clinton County (Ohio) will use $48,500 in RBOG funds to assist with establishing a technical training center for small business owners, farmers, and business development organizations to assist those organizations in developing Buy Local campaigns.
Also funded were a wide variety of more general entrepreneurial training and capacity building projects and a microlending training program. The full list of funded projects is available here.
Also announced by Secretary Vilsack at the same time were this year’s cooperative development grants for coops serving socially disadvantaged farmers. Nineteen awards totaling $2.9 million were made in nine states, including six in South Carolina and five in Mississippi. The recipient list follows the list of RBOG awards.