WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced the launch of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $15 million 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA is soliciting applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds.

“President Obama and I are committed to strengthening American innovation, which is crucial for sustained economic growth and competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA Regional Innovation Strategies Program announced today, which builds on the highly successful i6 Challenge, will help spur innovation through the development and strengthening of regional innovation clusters. Innovation clusters strengthen communities by creating good jobs and growing regional economies nationwide.”

“EDA helps foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors to support commercialization and entrepreneurship, including through regional innovation clusters,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “EDA’s new funding opportunity will provide more communities and regions with the resources they need to help local businesses start and grow. Specifically, EDA will help regions across the country develop regional innovation strategies, including proof of concept and commercialization centers, feasibility studies for the creation and expansion of science and research parks, and opportunities to close the funding gap for early-stage companies. This new funding opportunity is also an important component of the Administration’s commitment to build globally competitive regions.”

The 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program originally started as the Regional Innovation Program under the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act of 2010. This year’s program includes $15 million in funding for the following programs:

  • i6 Challenge ($8M): Launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative, the i6 Challengeis a national competition based on the most impactful national models for startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. The 2014 i6 has been broadened to include growing or expanding existing centers or programs and considering funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers, which provide opportunities for fine tuning and refinement of innovations. Special consideration will be given to programs which include initiatives focusing on innovative manufacturing and exports.
  • Science and Research Park Development Grants ($5M): The Science and Research Park Development grants program provides funding for feasibility and planning for the construction of new or expanded science or research parks, or the renovation of existing facilities.
  • Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds ($2M): These cluster grants provide funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that are offered to innovation-based, growth-oriented start-up companies in exchange for equity. Funds must include job creation in their consideration for issuing capital. Special consideration will be given for programs focused on innovative manufacturing and exporting.

Applicants are encouraged to refer to the Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) for examples of both the i6 Challenge and Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds. There is no requirement for applicants to submit proposals for more than one of the funding opportunities under this program. Funding for all three programs is available to all communities regardless of level of distress.

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging producers who have suffered eligible disaster-related losses to act to secure assistance by Sept. 30, 2014, as congressionally mandated payment reductions will take place for producers who have not acted before that date. Livestock producers that have experienced grazing losses since October 2011 and may be eligible for benefits but have not yet contacted their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office should do so as soon as possible.

The Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011 requires USDA to implement reductions of 7.3 percent to the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2014. However, producers seeking LFP support who have scheduled appointments with their local FSA office before Oct. 1, even if the appointment occurs after Oct.1, will not see reductions in the amount of disaster relief they receive.

USDA is encouraging producers to register, request an appointment or begin a Livestock Forage Disaster Program application with their county FSA office before Oct. 1, 2014, to lock in the current zero percent sequestration rate. As an additional aid to qualified producers applying for LFP, the Farm Service's Agency has developed an online registration that enables farmers and ranchers to put their names on an electronic list before the deadline to avoid reductions in their disaster assistance. This is an alternative to visiting or contacting the county office. To place a name on the Livestock Forage Disaster Program list online, visit is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..

Producers who already contacted the county office and have an appointment scheduled need do nothing more.

"In just four months since disaster assistance enrollments began, we've processed 240,000 applications to help farmers and ranchers who suffered losses," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Eligible producers who have not yet contacted their local FSA office should stop by or call their local FSA office, or sign up online before Oct. 1 when congressionally mandated payment reductions take effect. This will ensure they receive as much financial assistance as possible."

The Livestock Indemnity Program, the Tree Assistance Program and the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program Frost Freeze payments will also be cut by 7.3 percent on Oct. 1, 2014. Unlike the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, applications for these programs must be fully completed by Sept. 30. FSA offices will prioritize these applications, but as the full application process can take several days or more to complete, producers are encouraged to begin the application process as soon as possible.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program compensates eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire between Oct. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2014. Eligible livestock includes alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, poultry, reindeer, sheep or swine that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland. Producers forced to liquidate their livestock may also be eligible for program benefits.

Additionally, the 2014 Farm Bill eliminated the risk management purchase requirement. Livestock producers are no longer required to purchase coverage under the federal crop insurance program or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program to be eligible for Livestock Forage Disaster Program assistance.

To learn more about USDA disaster relief program, producers can review the 2014 Farm Bill fact sheet, the LFP program fact sheet,, or contact their local FSA office.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

WASHINGTON, DC- The District of Columbia Department of Housing and Community Development announces the release of six solicitations for offers (SFOs) for 27 blighted properties and vacant lots throughout the nation’s capital. Through the SFO process, DHCD is seeking public offers to build development projects that promote vibrant, walkable, mixed use and income neighborhoods. The 27 District owned properties and lots are located in Wards 1, 5, 7 and 8. They consist of four buildings and 23 vacant lots. The ward-by-ward breakdown includes:

Ward 1One vacant lot
Ward 5One building and seven vacant lots
Ward 714 vacant lots
Ward 8Three buildings and one vacant lot

The SFO application materials became available on Friday, July 11, 2014 on the DHCD website and also at the DHCD Housing Resource Center, located at 1800 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20020 in CD format. Two Pre-Bid meeting will be held on August 6, 2014 (SFOs 1-3) and August 20, 2014 (SFOs 4-6). The exact location will be announced on the DHCD website. The deadline for submitting proposal applications is 4 p.m. EST on Friday, October 10, 2014 (SFOs 1-3) and October 24, 2014 (SFOs 4-6).

WASHINGTON, DC– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking applications for grants that will be awarded to organizations to provide critical financial and technical assistance to recipients to develop and strengthen their capacity to carry out housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects.

"Many rural nonprofits often need capital and technical assistance to carry out their missions," Vilsack said. "These grants will provide both of these components through local and regional organizations that are experts at delivering such services."

USDA is making nearly $6 million available to qualified organizations under the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI).

Recipients must be non-profit organizations, low-income rural communities, or federally recognized tribes. Intermediary organizations are required to provide matching funds at least equal to the RCDI grant. The grants do not go directly to business recipients but rather through qualified intermediaries.

The deadline for submitting RCDI applications is November 12, 2014. Applications must be submitted to the USDA Rural Development state office where the applicant's headquarters are located. More information about the program and how to apply is available on page 47427 of the August 13, 2014 Federal Register.

Here is an example of how the RCDI program is helping rural communities. The Western Maine Community Action Program (WMCAP) has received several RCDI grants in recent years to help low-and very-low-income seniors maintain their independence and remain in their homes through the Keeping Seniors Home Program. Started in 2004, this program has served nearly 3,000 low-income senior homeowners in Maine. WMCAP is also working on a regional job creation plan to train energy auditors, private contractors, and other community partners to provide additional support services to Maine's elderly rural citizens.

President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced $7 million to 24 local public housing agencies across the country to help nearly 1,000 homeless Veterans find permanent housing.  The supportive housing assistance announced today is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA (see chart below).

Later this year, HUD anticipates awarding approximately 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers to build upon significant progress toward ending Veteran homelessness.  Since 2008, more than 59,000 vouchers have been awarded and 43,371 formerly homeless Veterans are currently in homes of their own because of HUD-VASH.  Rental assistance and support services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among our nation’s Veterans.

“We have made great progress, reducing homelessness among Veterans by 24 percent in just three years,” said HUD SecretaryJulián Castro.  “These vouchers will help communities build on these gains, providing targeted assistance to reach those in need. Ending homelessness is a top priority for me, and HUD looks forward to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that every Veteran has a place to call home in the country they risked everything to protect.”

“VA, HUD and our federal, state and local partners should take pride in the progress made to reduce Veterans’ homelessness by 24 percent since 2010, but so long as there remains a Veteran that lives on our streets, we have more work to do,” said Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “These HUD-VASH vouchers are a vital tool in our effort to provide our Veterans with the earned care and benefits that help them live productive, meaningful lives.”

HUD-VASH is a critical part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to end Veteran homelessness by 2015.  Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness serves as a roadmap for how the federal government will work with state and local communities to confront the root causes of homelessness, especially among former servicemen and women.

As the former mayor of San Antonio, Secretary Castro was among the growing ranks of more than 180 mayors who joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015 by using federal, local, and nonprofit resources.  Since 2010, the Obama Administration has reduced veteran homelessness by 24 percent. And while ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 is within reach, continued use of tools like HUD-VASH are central to reaching that goal.

In the HUD-VASH program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) work closely with homeless veterans before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of the homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing.  The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.

Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.  VA offers eligible homeless Veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico.



FY 2013 Project-based HUD-VASH voucher awards



Public Housing Authority


Partnering VA Medical Facility

# of Vouchers


AlabamaTuscaloosa Housing AuthorityTuscaloosaTuscaloosa DVAMC



CaliforniaSan FranciscoSan FranciscoSan Francisco VAMC



 Housing Authority County Of Los AngelesAlhambraDVA Los Angeles



 Housing Authority City Of Los AngelesLos AngelesDVA Los Angeles



 City Of San BuenaventuraVenturaDVA Los Angeles



 Alameda CountyHaywardPalo Alto HCS



 City Of Long BeachLong BeachDVA Long Beach



FloridaJacksonville Housing AuthorityJacksonvilleN FL/S GA VAMC



 Pinellas CountyLargoBay Pines VA HCS



GeorgiaNW Georgia Housing AuthorityRomeDuluth DVA



HawaiiHawaii Public Housing AuthorityHonoluluPacific Islands HCS



IllinoisChicago Housing AuthorityChicagoJesse Brown VAMC



 Cook CountyChicagoEdward Hines DVA



MassachusettsNorthamptom Housing AuthorityNorthamptonVA Central Western MA



MinnesotaMetropolitan Council HraSt. PaulMinneapolis DVAMC



MissouriCity Of ColumbiaColumbiaHarry S. Truman DVA



MontanaMontana DOC Public Housing AuthorityHelenaMontana HCS



North CarolinaChatham CountySiler CityDurham VAMC



New YorkNYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & DevelopmentNew York CityJames J. Peters VAMC



OhioChillicothe Metro Housing AuthorityChillicotheChicolte DVAMC



 Fairfield Metro Housing AuthorityLancasterChicolte DVAMC



OregonDouglas CountyRoseburgRoseburg VAMC



TennesseeMetropolitan DevelopmentNashvilleTennessee Valley DVA



TexasHouston Housing AuthorityHoustonMichael E. DeBakey VAMC






Providence, RI--Governor Lincoln D. Chafee joined Rhode Island Housing and their state lending and real estate partners to officially launch the agency’s new FirstHomes Tax Credit program, a tax credit savings program offered through Rhode Island Housing and their Lender Partners specifically designed to help first-time homebuyers save up to $2,000 per
The FirstHomes Tax Credit program is not a loan.  It is a tax credit – claimed by borrowers on their federal tax return annually.  The credit is equal to 20% of a borrower’s total mortgage interest amount paid – saving eligible homebuyers as much as $2,000 per year.  This credit can be
claimed each year for the life of the mortgage, as long as the borrower continues to live in the home. The tax credit is available to new homebuyers and those purchasing homes in select areas of the state only.
The FirstHomes Tax Credit Program, also known as a “Mortgage Credit Certificate” was authorized by Congress in the 1984 Tax Reform Act as a means of providing housing assistance to families based on income and eligibility guidelines.  As the state’s housing finance agency, Rhode Island Housing is an Issuer of Mortgage Credit Certificates.  However, because these tax credits reduce the state’s ability to issue tax exempt revenue bonds, it has not been used for many years.
“The savings derived from Rhode Island Housing’s new tax credit program will pave the way for more Rhode Islanders to buy a home,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “I commend Rhode Island Housing for joining with its lending partners and implementing a plan that invests in our cities and towns and will have an economic impact throughout the state.”

The announcement could not come at a better time for homebuyers, as Rhode Island is currently in the midst of a robust summer homebuying market.

“The launch of our FirstHomes Tax Credit program comes at a very exciting time for us,” said Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of  Rhode Island Housing.  “With the support of our Lender Partners, our loan production for the first six months of 2014 is up 50% over 2013.  This is a result of our lower cost and easier to process mortgages, expanded partnerships with lenders and dedication to helping homebuyers make smart purchasing decisions.  When we saw the opportunity to save first-time homebuyers
up to an additional $2,000 per year, we were thrilled to offer the program to our borrowers directly and through our Lender Partners.  We want all of our state’s first-time homebuyers to be aware of and have access to this incredible money saving opportunity.  If we can bring more first time buyers into the market it will stimulate sales all across the market.”

A buyer is eligible for the credit if they are a first-time homebuyer borrowing through Rhode Island Housing or a FirstHomes Tax Credit Approved Lender.  Current Approved Lenders include:

  • Anchor Financial Mortgage, Inc.
  • Bank of America
  • Coastway Community Bank
  • Eastern Bank
  • Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation
  • Guaranteed Rate, Inc.
  • Homestar Mortgage, Inc.
  • Home Loan Investment Bank, FSB
  • Maverick Funding Corporation
  • Mortgage Master
  • NE Moves Mortgage, LLC
  • Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc.
  • Province Mortgage Associates, Inc.
  • Residential Mortgage Services, Inc.
  • Savings Institute Bank & Trust
  • Seacoast Mortgage Corporation
  • Semper Home Loans, Inc.
  • Shamrock Financial Corporation
  • Wave Federal Credit Union.

Local lenders can join the Approved Lender list by meeting certain qualification requirements and entering into a participation agreement with Rhode Island Housing.
“The FirstHomes Tax Credit is an incredible added-value option for our clients,” said Stephen Tetzner, Vice President, Homestar Mortgage. “Having this program available to our team is a great asset for our loan officers and the clients we serve. We thank Rhode Island Housing for making this opportunity possible, and we look forward to passing the FirstHomes Tax Credit savings on to our customers.”
In addition to borrowing through an Approved Lender, homebuyers must also meet other criteria in order to be eligible for the credit. A borrower’s household income must fall within the following ranges: less than $86,280 for a 1-2 person household; less than $100,660 for a 3 or more person household.  The maximum home purchase price is $417,000. The tax credit is also available to non first-time homebuyers purchasing homes in select areas of Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket.
“The majority of our customers, and many of our Approved Lenders’ customers, will meet the eligibility criteria set for this program,” said Peter Walsh, Director of Homeownership and Customer Service for Rhode Island Housing.  “This is not a coincidence; the FirstHomes Tax Credit was specifically designed to respond to the needs of our state’s first-time homebuyers.  We are excited to offer this program and encourage any first-time homebuyer to visit our website or call our Loan Center for more information about this program.”

Rhode Island Housing can provide FirstHomes Tax Credits for over $93 million of mortgages on a first-come, first-serve basis among lenders and prospective borrowers.

WASHINGTON — Today, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced the availability of over $9 million in outreach and technical assistance for minority farmers and ranchers and military veterans that are new to farming and ranching. The funding, provided through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program, will enable community-based organizations and other partners to work directly with these groups to successfully acquire, own and operate farms and ranches and equitably participate in all USDA programs.

"The future face of agriculture needs to be varied in experience, background and knowledge to meet the demand of the 21st century," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "The 2501 Program enables USDA to bring more farmers and ranchers into American agriculture by partnering with the institutions, land-grant universities and other organizations that work directly with these diverse communities. Through these critical partnerships, we will build a stronger agricultural future for our country and for the world."

Deputy Secretary Harden made this announcement at the White House during the Future of American Agriculture Champions of Change event celebrating the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.

Through the 2501 Program, support is distributed to entities that work with minority or veteran farmers and ranchers -- 1890 Land Grant Institutions1994 Land Grant Institutions, American Indian Tribal community colleges and Alaska Native cooperative colleges, Hispanic-serving and other institutions of higher education, Tribal governments and organizations, or community-based organizations. The 2501 Program, administered by the USDA's Office of Advocacy and Outreach, has distributed over $57 million to 188 partners since 2010. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded targeted communities to include military veterans. Applications for 2501 Program funding will be accepted through August 25, 2014, and must be submitted through More information about the 2501 Program is available at:

America's farmers and ranchers continue to become more diverse. According to the 2012 Agricultural Census, minority and historically under-represented communities are part of the continued growth among new and beginning farmers and ranchers. According to the Census, 22 percent of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012. That means 1 out of every 5 farmers operated a farm for less than 10 years.

Today's funding announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

DURHAM, NC -  With light-rail transit on the drawing board following approval of a half-cent sales tax in Durham and Chapel Hill, the Durham City/County Planning Department is co-sponsoring a community meeting to encourage development of affordable housing near rail lines. The meeting, the kick-off of a four-part strategy, is scheduled for August 20, 2014, at the Temple Building, 302 West Main St.  Registration starts at 7:30 a.m., with the program beginning at 8 a.m.

“Although the planned light-rail system will have tremendous economic, environmental and mobility benefits, the development of rail systems tend to significantly increase housing costs near transit stations,” said Assistant City/County Planning Director Patrick Young, “Our elected officials have wisely chosen to seek ways to preserve and create affordable housing in these areas now.”

Both the City Council and the Board of County Commissioners recently adopted resolutions to pursue policies that result in 15 percent of all housing units within one-half mile of all future light-rail stations to be affordable to households at or below 60 percent of area median income (AMI).  In Durham (City and County), a family of three making $32,560 per year is at 60 percent of AMI in 2014.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers housing “affordable” if a household is spending no more than 30 percent of its monthly gross income on rent (or a mortgage) and utilities.  

A family of three at 60 percent of AMI has only $814 per month to spend on rent (or a mortgage) and utilities and to stay within the HUD affordability guidelines.

“The private market is unlikely to provide new housing units affordable to working families near transit stations without incentives or assistance from non-profit, charitable or governmental organizations,” said Young.  “No one agency or entity can do this on its own – partnerships are critical to success.” 

The meeting will include a panel discussion on emerging issues in affordable housing and resources available, with representatives from the non-profit, private and governmental sectors.

Additionally, panelists will evaluate a sample development project financing plan to begin to assess the “gap” between an affordable housing unit and the costs of producing housing units near transit areas.

Finally, City and City/County staff will discuss a four-part strategy to encourage housing affordability near transit, including additional incentives through the development review process, the continued implementation of higher density “design districts” near transit stops, the identification of financing strategies for affordable housing and a detailed needs assessments to be conducted with the City’s HUD Consolidated Plan update.

The meeting is being hosted by the Self Help Credit Union, and also co-sponsored by the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and Community Development Department.  

Admission to the event is free, and a light breakfast will be provided.  Since seating capacity is limited, interested persons should RSVP to Juliet Black with the Durham City/County Planning Department at (919) 560.4137, ext. 28216, or via email at

From time to time, Government Deal Funding will highlight programs that are not well known and could benefit you or someone you know.  Keep in mind that eligibility requirements vary constantly and Congressional action may halt programs with little notice.

USDA Rural Repair and Rehab Grants

Purpose: The Very Low-Income Housing Repair program provides loans and grants to very low-income homeowners to repair, improve, or modernize their dwellings or to remove health and safety hazards.

Eligibility: To obtain a loan, homeowner-occupants must be unable to obtain affordable credit elsewhere and must have very low incomes, defined as below 50 percent of the area median income. They must need to make repairs and improvements to make the dwelling more safe and sanitary or to remove health and safety hazards. Grants are only available to homeowners who are 62 years old or older and cannot repay a Section 504 loan. For Income and Property Eligibility please see the USDA RD Eligibility Site.

Terms: Loans of up to $20,000 and grants of up to $7,500 are available. Loans are for up to 20 years at 1 percent interest. A real estate mortgage and full title services are required for loans of $7,500 or more. Grants may be recaptured if the property is sold in less than 3 years. Grant funds may be used only to pay for repairs and improvements resulting in the removal of health and safety hazards. A grant/loan combination is made if the applicant can repay part of the cost. Loans and grants can be combined for up to $27,500 in assistance.

Standards: Repaired properties do not need to meet other HCFP code requirements, but the installation of water and waste systems and related fixtures must meet local health department requirements. Water supply and sewage disposal systems should normally meet HCFP requirements. Not all the health and safety hazards in a home must be removed with Section 504 funds, provided that major health and safety hazards are removed. All work must meet local codes and standards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers.

"Consumer demand for organic products is surging across the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To meet this demand, we need to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified. Organic food is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and helping this sector continue to grow creates jobs across the country."

The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

These programs provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer's or handler's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies. Each state will have their own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and the National Organic Program (NOP) will assist states as much as possible to successfully implement the programs.

In 2012 alone, USDA issued close to 10,000 cost-share reimbursements totaling over $6.5 million, to support the organic industry and rural America. Additional information about resources available to small and mid-sized producers, including accessing capital, risk management, locating market opportunities and land management is available on USDA's Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.

USDA has a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major trade agreements on organic products, and is also helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies. Through the NOP, USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. The organic community includes over 25,000 organic businesses in more than 120 different countries around the world.

Today's funding announcement for organic certification cost-share assistance was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.