USDA Rural Development Programs Strengthens Rural Farms

By Dr. Carrie Castille, Louisiana Director, USDA Rural Development

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Louisiana USDA Rural Development (RD) has had a very successful 2018 Fiscal Year. The agency invested over $1 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and grants to increase economic opportunities, improve the quality of life in rural communities, and promote rural prosperity throughout the state.

I could not have done this alone. Thank you for your support and your partnerships. You are extremely valuable in helping to carry out the mission of RD. With over 40 programs, my team and I are committed to helping agriculture producers, strengthening rural farming operations, and building thriving economics for our state.

Through the Business and Cooperative Programs, over $25 million was distributed in loans and grants to help agricultural producers and businesses with their existing operations, job creation, and enhancing economic prosperity.

RD provided financial backing and technical assistance to support farming operations throughout the state. For example, a $56,619 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant was awarded to Tony Chachere’s to help improve energy efficiency to lower utility costs for their operation. Coastal Communities Consultants received a $100,000 Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) to assist commercial fishermen and entrepreneurs in the seafood processing industry. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette received a $249,678 RBDG to conduct feasibility studies, energy audits, and business plans for aqua farmers and small emerging businesses in Vermilion, St. Mary, and Iberia parishes. NOVA Workforce Institute, a job intermediary, received a $93,322 RBDG to connect workforce needs with training entities and residents to create long-term values for employers.

Other agricultural related funding included a $250,000 Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to Bocage Crawfish to help market and sell their products. Vidalia Demin received a $25 million Business and Industry (B&I) loan to transform the Fruit of the Loom building into a cotton mill. Local and regional cotton farmers will be able to sell their products to Vidalia Denim in Vidalia.

I am extremely proud of these important substantial investments that will help our agriculture producers with their operations. I want to offer more support to farmers that will equate to improving their bottom line. Financial assistance is available to help eligible farmers, ranchers, nurserymen, aquaculture operators, and others engaged in agricultural production.

Farm labor housing financing opportunities are also available to develop affordable housing where a need for farm labor housing exists. Eligible applicants include farmers, associations of farmers, family farm corporations, nonprofits, State and local governments, and Federally Recognized Tribes.

I can attest to countless successes that have made a remarkable difference in rural and urban communities alike. Moving forward, I assure you that we will continue to help our rural agriculture producers and communities with infrastructure investments, business needs, essential services, and affordable housing opportunities. To let us know how we can best serve your needs, please contact me at carrie.castille@la.usda.gov or (318) 473-7921.