Leahy-Authored Farm Bill Program For REAP Economic Zones Nets Northeast Kingdom More Than $500,000 In Agricultural Business Assistance

With Program Due To Expire, Leahy Also Wins Charter Renewal In Senate-Passed Farm Bill

(TUESDAY, June 26) – Just days after U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) won Senate Farm Bill approval of a renewal of the charter for the Northeast Kingdom’s successful decade-old Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone, NEK’s Zone status is bringing to Vermont more than $500,000 in new U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development business assistance grants.

On Tuesday USDA Rural Development announced that six Vermont organizations will receive $615,578 in Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG).  The agency provides RBEG grants to public entities and rural nonprofit organizations to help spur economic growth and create jobs.  Five of the grant recipients benefited from the REAP Zone designation in the Northeast Kingdom, a designation that allows the organizations to compete for a reserved pool of funds for which only organizations in the nation’s five REAP Zones can compete.   

Leahy said, “This is the latest proof of the boost that REAP Zone status lends to the Northeast Kingdom’s continued agricultural renaissance and to the ongoing work to create a diverse regional economy.  At a time when nearly every federal budget is being cut, NEK’s REAP Zone helps USDA Rural Development properly prioritize rural areas where this leverage can help the most, and areas like the NEK that have a proven track record of making good use of federal investments.  The REAP Program makes a difference in Vermont communities, and that’s why I will continue the fight to renew its charter.”

The Senate last week approved a Farm Bill that includes Leahy-authored provisions to extend the Northeast Kingdom REAP Zone authorization. 

Vermont’s new REAP Zone RBEG grants are:

Center for an Agricultural Economy: $191,849, to fund a full-time agriculture and food business development expert at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick.

Lyndon State College: $129,429, to expand the school’s Incubator Without Walls program to assist the manufacturing industry in the REAP Zone.

St. Johnsbury Works Inc.: $100,000, to help the organization hire an executive director.

Northern Community Investment Corporation: $99,000, to help businesses in the REAP Zone hire professional consulting services in marketing, accounting, bookkeeping and website development.

Northeast Organic Farming Association: $55,000, to expand the online farmers’ market, YourFarmstand.com.

In addition to the REAP Zone RBEG grants, USDA Rural Development also announced a $39,800 RBEG grant for the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, to help the region’s businesses recover from Tropical Storm Irene and the Brooks House Fire. 

USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Molly Lambert said of the grant recipients: “Their selection is a tribute to the quality of their work and the jobs they will create and save as a result of their efforts.”

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