On November 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the awardees of two key co-op grant programs for 2023: the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program and the Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant (SDGG) program. The two programs provide $8.8 million in funding, level with the last 15 years, through 44 grants to cooperative development centers nationwide.
Authorized through the Farm Bill, the RCDG program provides grants up to $200,000 to Co-op Development Centers established through nonprofits or institutions of higher education to improve the economic condition of rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives. The SDGG program awards grants up to $175,000 to Cooperatives and Co-op Development Centers providing technical assistance to socially disadvantaged groups in rural areas through activities such as conducting feasibility studies, developing business plans, providing leadership and operational improvement training, and facilitating strategic planning.
2023 Rural Cooperative Development Grant and Socially Disadvantaged Groups Grant awardees include:
- Rocky Mountain Farmers Union | RMFU – RCDG recipient ($200,000)
This investment will be used to assist RMFU in providing technical, financial, and educational assistance to new and existing cooperative businesses and projects in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. RMFU’s focus will be on cooperative solutions for climate-related resiliency; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; collaborative, cooperative regional economic ventures; worker-owned and governed economic enterprises; and cooperative education, communication, and training.
- Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) – SDGG recipient ($175,000)
This investment will be used to provide training, business planning, and direct technical assistance for socially disadvantaged groups working to develop worker and producer co-ops, including work with organizing groups led by Native Alaskans, Native Americans, and Latinos. This project will help create one job and save one rural job in California. In addition, the organization estimates assisting at least 16 rural businesses.
- North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives – RCDG Recipient ($200,000)
This investment will be used to provide technical assistance to local food systems and healthcare providers and lead economic and cooperative development in rural communities. 6 cooperatives will be created, 21 businesses and 15 cooperatives will be assisted. 15 jobs will be created, and 20 jobs retained.
- Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) – RCDG Recipient ($200,000)
This investment will be used by MCDC in Great Falls, Montana, to fund the Center’s operational costs. The MCDC provides technical assistance to rural cooperatives and mutually owned businesses to all 56 of Montana’s counties and eight sovereign Tribal nations. Through a network of economic developers, they serve as entry points to identify cooperative projects with the goal of improving conditions by supporting rural cooperatives and small businesses. Funding operational costs through this grant will save six jobs and benefit 12 individuals.