MEMPHIS, TN, May 20, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA's plan to implement a Farm Bill provision that will have a major policy impact on the way the Department helps rural communities plan and finance regional economic development strategies. The new Regional Development Priority (RDP) policy will make it easier for rural communities to access resources to invest in long-term community development efforts by giving priority to applications for Rural Development programs that include regional partnerships and strategies.
"Regional planning maximizes the effectiveness of our investments in rural America," Vilsack said here today while addressing the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Conference. "When communities come together to share resources, ideas and expertise, they can develop a cohesive economy strategy and invest in their future. With a strategy in place, USDA-funded projects can spur regional economic transformation, increase job opportunities and improve quality of life for rural communities."
Under the RDP, communities with multi-jurisdictional economic development plans will be able to request funding priority when they apply for loans and grants in four key USDA programs. These programs help finance a variety of infrastructure, business and community development needs. They are:
Applicants seeking priority consideration will be judged by (1) how well their funding request supports a region's existing development plan, and (2) how well the plan addresses regional collaboration and considers other funding sources including philanthropic groups and other federal agencies. Projects that receive funding will be based on locally identified needs and growth strategies that capitalize upon a region's unique strengths.
Vilsack made this announcement during the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. The conference brings world leaders and policy officials from 34 countries to discuss how modern policies can help rural regions reach their full economic potential, support national growth and be globally competitive. During the conference, Secretary Vilsack reaffirmed his vision for four pillars of rural economic development.
Additional information about the funding priority was published in today's Federal Register.
Congress authorized USDA to implement this regional approach when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill. That law builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Since the bill's enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including expanding access to rural credit, developing new markets for rural-made products, and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.