October 23, 2014
On Tuesday, October 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced 50 new Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) for the 2014 fiscal year, including awards for two NSAC member organizations.
Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and National Hmong American Farmers (NHAF) each received RBEG awards from USDA’s Rural Development agency. The announcement follows an earlier wave of RBEG awards unveiled last month. See a full list of this week’s RBEG recipients here.
Practical Farmers of Iowa
PFI received $75,000 to provide mentoring, training, and planning for small farm businesses in the state. The organization will offer technical assistance to small and emerging businesses in counties with less than 15,000 people. Additionally, PFI will facilitate network-building and outreach with a farmer-to-farmer focus to give farmers the tools and skills required for a viable agricultural business.
Project goals include:
“Currently in Iowa, the five biggest cities are growing in size, but rural populations are on the decline,” PFI Operations Director Sally Worley said. “This rural decline results in fewer jobs, merging school districts, and the disappearance of small town vitality. At the same time, Iowa’s farming population is aging.”
“While rural communities are on the decline and the farmer population is aging, Practical Farmers’ farmer-to-farmer network is experiencing a huge surge in beginning and aspiring farmers. Our farmer network has identified helping beginning farmers become established as top priority.”
Helping beginning farmers gain a firm foundation can help revitalize rural communities through the development of economic opportunities and by providing more food for local markets.
National Hmong American Farmers
NHAF received $50,938 to provide interpretation services to Southeast Asian farmers in California. The money will assist NHAF’s work with Project Rise, designed to maximize accessibility to resources by those for whom English is not a first language.
NHAF helps enhance economic development in the Hmong agricultural community by helping Hmong farmers with recordkeeping, new marketing opportunities, direct intervention, third-party interpretation, and mediation.
“This grant will allow NHAF to connect and work with Hmong and Asian American/Pacific Islanders and small producers on a one-on-one basis,” NHAF Executive Director Chukou Thao said. “For many of them, English is not a first language and farming is their means to provide for their families. NHAF, it’s staff, board and membership, and now the USDA are willing to take an extra step to assist limited resource producers.”
The RBEG program provides grants for projects facilitating small and emerging rural business development, distance learning networks, and employment-related adult education. Rural public entities, Indian tribes, and non-profits are eligible to apply for the grants, ranging from $10,000 to $500,000. The 2014 Farm Bill provides for a merger of the RBEG program with the Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG) to form the Rural Business Development Grant program. USDA Rural Development is currently working on rolling out the merger.
For more information on the RBEG and RBOG programs, see the USDA Rural Development Agency’s website.
See the USDA’s press release on this week’s RBEG award announcement here.