The federal government today announced it is making $5 billion available to help advance rural prosperity, expand economic development and provide increased sustainability of land and crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will distribute the funds, which are part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, in the form of grants and loans. The $5 billion in funding will cross five programs overseen by USDA.
USDA will commit $1.7 billion to what it calls “climate-smart agriculture.” Farmers, ranchers and foresters will be able to use the funds to underwrite techniques that minimize soil disturbance and create riparian buffers near waterways to minimize pollutants.
USDA also will allocate $1.1 billion to 81 projects under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. The program uses a public-private partnership (P3) approach to encourage famers to set aside acreage for voluntary conservation. Funding under the RCPP will flow, in part, through three programs:
- $100 million through the Agricultural Easement Program.
- $250 million through the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- $250 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
A third pot of money, $1.1 billion, will support 104 loan and grant awards to underwrite projects that both establish and rebuild infrastructure in rural areas. This funding includes $5 million to further increase the availability of renewable, homegrown biofuels.
USDA also will allocate $2 billion across 99 economic-development projects in nine states and Puerto Rico. The effort, known as the Rural Partners Network, puts federal employees on the ground to connect rural communities with federal resources. The goal is to increase access to quality health care, affordable housing and clean water in far-flung communities.
An additional $274 million will fund 16 grant and loan awards to expand access to high-speed internet across eight states. Another $145 million will be spread across 700 loans and grants to help farmers and rural small business owners improve their energy efficiency.