The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

April 21, 2014

USDA establishes rural business investment program

(Continued)

DES MOINES —

Vilsack said a second RBIC application is already under review. The USDA intends to accept RBIC applications through 2016.

Vilsack said examples of the types of businesses that could receive money include biotechnology companies, regional food hubs, or companies making ag-related products seeking to expand into the export market.

"This new partnership will allow us to facilitate private investment in businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields," he said.

The program is aimed toward established companies that have received enough money to get off the ground but are now in position to increase the business but need additional capital to grow but are not interested in more debt.

"It's designed to fill a very narrow but important piece that's been missing from assistance and help available in rural areas," Vilsack said.

Small agriculture related business in rural areas have often encountered difficulty getting investors interested in putting up money, Vilsack said. The program is designed to help fill that void.

He said it's the first step in several activities planned this year he hopes will "create a buzz" about business activity in the nation's rural areas.

Other steps include the formation of a nonprofit Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research funded by Congress in the Farm Bill passed earlier this year. It makes available $200 million in USDA money to create the foundation that is designed to attract another $200 million in private sector money to continue research in various agriculture-related fields.

Additionally, the White House Rural Council's Investing In Rural America conference is set for July. The goal is to attract additional investments to rural America by connecting major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. The conference will promote opportunities to invest in rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy, biofuels and bio-products, infrastructure, transportation, local and regional food systems, and other areas.

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