USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA will begin implementation of the $28 billion provided for ag in the stimulus package. This includes:
- “The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will immediately use $145 million of the $173 million provided in the Recovery Act for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program, which will give 2,042 farmers – almost 50% are beginning farmers and 10% are socially disadvantaged producers – direct loans from the agency. These loans will be used to purchase items such as farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel and other operating expenses and will stimulate rural economies by providing American farmers funds to operate. Currently, farmers are struggling with the high costs of running family farms, seriously affecting beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.
- USDA Rural Development Agency will initially provide nearly 10,000 rural families with $14.9 million ($1.17 billion in loan guarantees) for homeownership financing, creating or saving more than 5,000 jobs.
- USDA Rural Development (RD) will also release funding for more than $400 million in pending applications for water and waste grants, and $140 million in pending applications for water and waste direct loans. RD expects nearly 13,000 jobs will be created by 400 water and wastewater projects.
- The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will release up to $145 million provided in the Recovery Act to restore frequently flooded land to its natural state, create jobs in rural communities nationwide when landowners establish these floodplain easements, as well as restore and protect an estimated 60,000 acres of flood-prone lands nationwide through the floodplain easement component of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Signups for the easements will be held nationwide from March 9 to March 27.
- NRCS will release $80 million of the $145 million for watershed projects this week. Through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Operations Program, funded projects will improve fish and wildlife habitat and create or restore wetlands.
- NRCS also will release $50 million this week for rehabilitating aging watershed structures to protect lives and property and public infrastructure. Over 2,100 jobs directly related to NRCS Recovery Act funding are estimated in the engineering and biological fields, additional specialized equipment operators, construction crews and many other diversified skilled laborers.