Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced the award of $4.3 million to fund cooperative development centers and related activities in 20 states. The funds will be used to establish and operate centers for cooperative development and assist rural businesses and farmers in developing cooperative business ventures.
"These funds will help small business owners, farmers and ranchers across the nation by providing them with technical assistance," said Johanns. "Cooperative development centers, established and funded with these grants, are important to our efforts to support rural America's entrepreneurs."
Grant recipients must be nonprofit corporations, including institutions of higher education, aiming to improve economic conditions in rural areas. Funds are awarded on a competitive basis and can pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and operating centers for cooperative development. The centers provide rural residents with education and technical assistance to enable them to establish cooperatives, and to market and manage cooperatives. Of the 53 applications received by USDA Rural Development in 2006, 39 were found to be eligible and 20 of those were selected for funding.
Among the successful applicants was the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center of Colorado, which provides technical, financial and educational support for new cooperative ventures. The Indiana Cooperative Development Center will receive funding to continue to provide technical assistance and capacity building for cooperatives and the Massachusetts-based Cooperative Development Institute will receive funding to continue to assist rural communities throughout New England and New York State with cooperative business development ventures.