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Source: USDA news release

As part of the Obama Administration's efforts to invest in infrastructure that will expand opportunity for all Americans, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded organizations in 14 states loans and grants to support rural infrastructure, job creation efforts and business development.

"Our small rural businesses need first-class infrastructure to be world-class competitors in the global economy," Vilsack said. "To achieve our community-based development goals, USDA is investing in the infrastructure of the rural economy by providing loans and grants to local partners who can leverage the funds with other financing for projects that have broad economic impacts."

The funding is being provided through USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Under this program, USDA provides zero-interest loans and grants to utilities that lend funds to local businesses for projects to create and retain employment in rural areas. These revolving loan funds broaden the program's reach and create a multiplier effect for its impact.

This funding will help organizations such as the Benton Rural Electric Association in Washington State, which will use a $750,000 loan and a $300,000 grant to expand the wastewater treatment facility at the port of Sunnyside.

This project serves value-added agricultural processing facilities in the Pacific Northwest. With improvements made possible by this investment, 50 jobs will be created and 263 others will be saved.

The Southern Pine Electric Power Association in Taylorsville, Miss., is receiving a $2 million loan that will be used to help Polk's Food Products remodel internal refrigerant and process control systems at its 50,000-square-foot plant in Magee, Miss. The project will help save 115 jobs in Simpson County, a persistent poverty area.

USDA is assisting Simpson County through its StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, an effort launched in 2010 to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups working to combat poverty.

In total, Vilsack announced today $22.3 million in loans and grants for REDLG projects in 14 states.

USDA Rural Development also announced today that its state offices are providing funding for other infrastructure projects, including $2.3 million in Water and Waste Disposal loan and grant assistance for Cobden, Ill., to replace its municipal wastewater treatment plant, an $8.3 million Community Facilities direct loan to construct a science lab/cafeteria/administrative space at the high school in Santa Maria, Texas, and a $2.3 million Water and Waste Disposal loan and grant combination to help Clear Lake, S.D., make improvements to its sanitary sewer system.

Awards for the recipients of the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program and other infrastructure assistance are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the REDLG program has helped create or save more than 25,000 rural jobs, provided almost $202 million in economic development assistance, improved manufacturing capability, expanded health care and educational facilities and has either expanded or helped establish almost 1,000 rural businesses and community projects.

The REDLG awards announced today are part of the Obama Administration's overall effort to support rural business development and expansion for a stronger American economy. USDA is also highlighting support for rural small businesses as part of National Small Business Week, held this year May 12-16, to celebrate the critical contributions of small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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