USDA unveils Rural Business Investment Program
April 22nd, 2014 by Ric Hanson
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Cedar Rapids Monday afternoon to tout an effort by his agency to create jobs in rural America. The former Iowa governor said the new Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP) will allow the USDA to facilitate private equity investments in ag-related businesses. “It’ll be at least $150 million and those resources can then be used to purchase interests in small businesses that want to expand and scale up product,” Vilsack said. “It’s an opportunity to get more capitol into rural areas.”
Eight Farm Credit institutions have pledged to invest $150 million into the new program. Vilsack said, over the past decade, USDA programs to help rural businesses have only involved loans or loan guarantees. “The bottom line here is about a new way to do business for government, where we facilitate, bridge, and leverage as opposed to solely relying on government financing to do it all,” Vilsack said. The ag secretary is promising more programs to help rural America will be rolled out in the coming months.
For instance, a Rural Opportunity Investment Conference is being planned for this summer. The event is designed to connect major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. “We’ll have every federal agency that has projects…like, we have water projects that we don’t have enough money to fund because of budget constraints. Those water projects may be something an investment bank might be interest in because it’s a fairly stable return. So, we’re going to match their money to projects we know are available and out there in rural America,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack discussed the USDA programs Monday during a stop at Central Iowa Power Cooperative in Cedar Rapids.