USDA program could help farmers when going gets rough
Grants available for rural housing, business

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

USDA Rural Development Manager Don Williams, standing, told community leaders Tuesday morning his agency had a number of programs that could provide financial assistance to rural water districts, communities and economic development efforts. Attending the meeting were (clockwise from back center) Frank Smith, tourism director; Roger Feagley, Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation; Sulphur Springs Councilwoman Yolanda Williams; Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap; Cumby Mayor Travis Baxley; Billy Emerson, manager of North Hopkins Rural Water Supply Corp.; and Chamber of Commerce President Bill Elliott.
Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Aug. 23, 2005 -- Community leaders from across Hopkins County were told Tuesday morning that the United States Department of Agriculture was ready to provide financial assistance in a number of ways and through a number of programs.

Don Williams, rural development manager for U.S.D.A., said his agency was committed to the future of rural communities through assistance with rural housing, rural business and rural infrastructure.

Participants in the round-table discussion included Cumby Mayor Travis Baxley, Sulphur Springs City Council members Yolanda Williams and Freddie Taylor, Hopkins County Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew, Economic Development Corporation Executive Vice President Roger Feagley, Chamber of Commerce President Bill Elliott and Billy Emerson, manager of North Hopkins Rural Water Supply Corporation.

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap and Commissioner Don Patterson prepared and coordinated the session that addressed community needs and issues, economic growth and development, and USDA rural development programs that could provide funding to meet many of those needs and issues.

Williams said there have not been as many grant dollars available as in previous years, but assistance is available.

“Interest rates have been lowered and we can offer, in most of our programs, some long-term loans,” he said. “Hopefully there will be grant dollars available and we will be working with you to try to get as many of those grant dollars as we can.”

Funding, Williams said, is continuing to get tighter and tighter for local governmental entities ,and the challenge is to learn how to take the various programs and supplement them with local funds in order to get necessary projects done.

“We deserve the money right here just as much as any other area of the state,” he said. “We have the access to the way to be able to tap into those dollars.”

North Hopkins County Rural Water Supply Corp. recently made application for rural development funds to support a needed expansion of the rural water utility infrastructure.

“We are going to try to have that sitting on the table so that when our money comes around we can get that thing funded,” Williams said.

With programs available for rural housing and rural business, along with rural infrastructure, Williams said communities ran the risk of missing out on available resources.

“If you don’t tap into them, I think you are being a little negligent in your duties,” he said. “Try to tap into them as much as possible.”

For many of those attending, the thought of grant and loan applications evoked visions of stacks of paperwork, which Williams said was just a fact of life.

“We try to keep the paperwork as simple as possible; however, we are the federal government,” he said. “There are going to be strings attached, but I’m sorry, that is part of it.”

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