The Record’s Ag Report
The farm bill plays a significant role for many federal agencies in rural areas. One of those agencies that it impacts is USDARural Development.
USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider said their agency is concerned about the future of the next farm bill.
“Most of our programs are established through the farm bill, and obviously there is lots of uncertainty about future funding,” Schneider said.
Rural Development program funding has an impact on the agriculture industry as they are considered the economic development/credit wing of agriculture.
“Indirectly, we support the agricultural industry by doing financing in infrastructure and spurring economic activity in the rural areas,” Schneider said.
Through their water and utility programs, farm and ranch operations have been supplied with reliable and clean drinking water, waste treatment, electric power and telecommunication services.
Recently, funding was provided to bring high speed broadband internet and telephone services to the rural areas.
“For farmers and ranchers to receive market information, that has surely helped them improve the efficiency of their operations,” he said.
Grants and loans are available to agricultural producers to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development. Examples may be purchasing equipment such as a grain dryer, installing a geothermal or solar system or insulating a building.
Grants are also available to agricultural producers to support them in activities that increase their return on their agricultural commodities.
“Through our value-added producer grants, options are endless,” Schneider said.
The program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/ or marketing of bio-based value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the end goals of this program.
Community Program Specialist Josh Kramer, a Linton native, emphasized the relevance of funding that is provided through their programs and the impacts they have on rural areas.
“So much of what we do at Rural Development is taken for granted,” Kramer said. “What would North Dakota look like if we did not provide funding for our rural cooperatives, our rural water systems and maintaining those infrastructures?”
Schneider realizes they may continue to see cuts made in the programs they offer, as they have already felt the impact of cuts in the past year.
“We have done some restructuring to meet the demands we have in our rural communities we serve, and we will continue to do that,” Schneider said.
Emmons County has greatly benefited from the funding resources through USDA Rural Development.
Below are some of the projects that have been financed in Emmons County over the past few years.
• City of Linton received an $891,000 grant and a $1,109,000 loan through the Water and Environmental Program for renovation and improvements to the city’s water system in 2013.
• Farmers Union Oil Company of Hazelton received an $11,096 Rural Energy of America (REAP) grant to install flex fuel pumps in 2011.
• South Central Regional Water District received a $7,364,750 loan through the Water and Environmental Program in 2011.
• BEK Communications Cooperative received a $ 2,016,571 loan and $1,986,473 grant through the Broadband Initiatives Program to upgrade and provide broadband services in 2011.
• In Hazelton, Activities for Learning, Inc. received a $280,000 guaranteed loan through the Business & Industry Program to finance the construction of its assembly plant and offices in 2007.
• Linton Hospital received a $317,533 guaranteed loan from three banks totaling $952,000 in 2006.