Northcountry Cooperative Foundation.

By Janet Kubat Willette

ST. PAUL -- A USDA official was in town Sept. 14 to announce a grant for Northcountry Cooperative Foundation.

Peter Thomas, national administrator of USDA's Rural Business Service, made the announcement Sept. 14, while highlighting the nearly $70 million that USDA Rural Development has invested in Minnesota over the past three years.

Northcountry Cooperative Foundation received $300,000 from USDA. The foundation is the non-profit affiliate of the Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund, a cooperatively owned and operated financial organization that works for the development and growth of cooperatives.


The money will be used for many projects, including the development of a model for small consumer cooperatives to use in conducting market studies and assistance to farmers with a specialized cooperative loan fund.

"It is an honor to be here in Minnesota and discuss the great work that USDA Rural Development has done in this state," Thomas said. "These dollars ensure that rural Minnesota is able to offer job opportunities and a high quality of life to its residents."

USDA has a number of programs geared to helping communities of fewer than 50,000 people, Thomas said. There are programs to increase home ownership, foster business growth and develop community and technology infrastructure. There are also value added and renewable energy grants.

Though USDA has invested more than $60 million in grants and loans in rural Minnesota businesses this year, many are unaware of the funding available through USDA, Thomas said.

A recent survey found that people who lived in a town of 500 didn't believe they qualified for rural development programs because they lived in city limits. That's untrue, Thomas said, and his agency wants to reach out to more people.

Applications for USDA programs are accepted throughout the year at the state's Rural Development office in St. Paul. All applications are scored and compete nationally for funding. Money is appropriated to the agency each fiscal year.

"USDA Rural Development plays a key role in building a rural community from the ground up," said Steve Wenzel, state Rural Development director. "We can provide assistance in housing, infrastructure, business, medical services and other areas that are vital to the development of a community."

On the web www.rurdev.usda.go


Also funded in the latest round of grants:

Iowa State University, $299,943

North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, $300,000

Value-Added Agriculture Development Center, South Dakota, $200,000

Cooperative Development Services Fund, Inc., Wisconsin, $300,000

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