STAKEHOLDERS ANNOUNCEMENT: USDA Seeks Applications to Advance Equity and Expand Regional Economies in Distressed Rural Communities

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2021 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small announced the Department is accepting grant applications that will advance equity in rural America by creating new opportunities in distressed communities. USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America.

The Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program encourages a regional, innovation-driven approach to economic development by funding job accelerator partnerships in low-income rural communities. This includes communities that have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality. RISE provides grants of up to $2 million to consortiums of local governments, investors, industry, institutions of higher education, and other public and private entities in rural areas. The funding may be used to support innovation centers and job accelerator programs that improve the ability of distressed rural communities to create high-wage jobs, form new businesses, and identify and maximize local assets. USDA encourages applications that serve the smallest communities with the lowest incomes.

The deadline to submit applications is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, April 19, 2022. Applications must be submitted through Grants.gov.

Potential applicants may submit a concept proposal for review by the agency to SM.USDARD.RISE@usda.gov no later than February 18, 2022.

For additional information, see page 71868 of the Dec. 20, 2021, Federal Register.

Applicants are encouraged to contact their nearest USDA Rural Development State Office ahead of the application deadline for more information about the program or the application process. USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

Coming Together for Racial Understanding Receives National Award

Coming Together for Racial Understanding received the 2021 National Diversity in Extension Award at the annual Food and Agriculture Excellence Awards, hosted by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities on November 9, 2021. The award, sponsored by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Cooperative Extension, recognizes significant contributions and accomplishments in achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism. 

The Coming Together for Racial Understanding Team, coordinated by the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University, is comprised of Extension specialists and administrators from 22 Land-Grant Universities from 17 states, and other national representatives. The team developed a process to train Extension professionals to help facilitate community dialogues across the country around issues of race and discrimination. To date, 29 states have sent teams to a national train-the-trainer workshop to help launch efforts within their own states. 

 “Each year, these awards showcase the fundamental, transformative difference Cooperative Extension continues to make in our society,” said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. “This important partnership and excellent programs like these are a testament to the true value of Cooperative Extension capacity funds more than a century after the Smith-Lever Act created this unparalleled system of outreach and education that enriches every community across the nation.”

 “Congratulations to the outstanding professionals who will be honored on November 9th,” said ECOP Chair, Dr. Wendy Powers, Associate Vice President of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “They are leading the way in communicating trusted science to the latest generation of learners and problem-solvers in communities across the nation.”

To read more, click here

Southern Region Names Excellence in Extension Award Winners

Excellence in Extension Award Winners were named at the 2021 Southern Region Program Leadership Network Annual Meeting in August. Those named were Dr. Ann Berry, whose 32-year Extension career spans appointments with two Land-Grant Universities, Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Tennessee (UT). She is a Professor and Consumer Economics Specialist in the Department of Family of Consumer Sciences.

Dr. Michelle Eley has spent nearly 18 years with Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T University, building programs, training staff on efforts focused on community, organizational and leadership development, among several other community development focused areas for underserved and youth.

Dr. Bob Kemerait has worked for more than 21 years to develop a program that supports, trains and mentors UGA Extension agents, graduate, and undergraduate students from UGA and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and the diverse staff whom he employs.

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CREATE BRIDGES National Team Recognized by the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) at their 2021 Annual Conference

The CREATE BRIDGES national team was recently recognized as a regional and national award runner-up by the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) at their 2021 Annual Conference, held virtually on May 15-19. Team members include Rachel Welborn, Grace Langford, and Russ Garner (Southern Rural Development Center [SRDC]); Alison Davis, Daniel Kahl, and Mercedes Maness (Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky at University of Kentucky); Stacey McCullough, Julianne Dunn, Brandon Mathews, Hazelle Whited, and Murriel Wiley (University of Arkansas); Sara Siems and Mike Woods (Oklahoma State University); Becky Bowen, Susan Jakes, and Chanel Nestor (North Carolina State University); Susan Odum and Zachary Kennedy (University of Illinois); Michael Patrick, Patrick Vanderpool, and Tim Hagaman (New Mexico State University, Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, and New Mexico Economic Development Department [respectively]). Funding for CREATE BRIDGES is provided by Walmart.

Rachel Welborn, Associate Director at the SRDC and principle investigator on the project, noted this, “The CREATE BRIDGES team has demonstrated incredible innovation and creativity in addressing rural retail concerns in the trenches of the COVID-19 pandemic which threatened these businesses on an unprecedented scale. I am so pleased to be a part of such a dedicated team of Community Development Specialists.”

NACDEP has over 350 individual memberships, representing more than 40 states and territories. Active members are currently employed as Extension professionals with at least a 25% extension appointment with responsibilities or strong interests in community and economic development.

To read the full press release, click here

Monica Babine Awarded 2021 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society recently announced their Charles Benton Digital Equity Champions for 2021. Monica Babine, a member of the National Digital Education Leadership Team (NDEET) has been named the 2021 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion recipient for her service of more than 25 years in the field of digital equity. Currently she is the Senior Associate leading the Program of Digital Initiatives within the Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS) at Washington State University.

In addition to serving on NDEET, she is also active within several other national, state, and regional groups such as the National Telecommunications Information Administration State Broadband Leaders Network, Rural Telecommunications Congress, Partners for Rural Washington, WSU Economic Council, and the Stevens County Broadband Action Team.

The Southern Rural Development Center would like congratulate Monica Babine on this prestigious award as she is most deserving of this honor for her tireless service in which she focuses on rural and economic development, e-connectivity, and telecommunications. SRDC has benefitted greatly from Monica’s expertise through NDEET, which SRDC helps to coordinate.

To read the full press release, click here

John J. Green Named New Director of the Southern Rural Development Center

On August 1st, John J. Green will become director of SRDC.

He is a professor of sociology and senior research associate with the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi where he previously was director of the center and the State Data Center of Mississippi at UM.
Green has worked primarily in Mississippi and the South, but his career has also reached internationally. His background includes policy development, community-based research, rural sociology and community development, and socioeconomic vulnerability and resilience.

To read the full press release, click here

Virtual Workshop: Building Community Capacity Around Youth

December 8th & 9th, 1PM - 3:30 PM Central Time

USDA’s Office of Partnerships & Public Engagement, in collaboration with the Regional Rural Development Centers, is inviting you to join a multi-day virtual workshop on Building Community Capacity around Rural Youth Workforce Development. This event is designed for community organizers and planners that work on this important topic on a state or community level, such as: community planners/organizers, Extension professionals, elected/appointed county and city officials, 4-H Extension agents/staff, career services professionals, parent/teacher organizations, youth-serving organizations, community foundations, and youth-serving workforce development organizations/agencies

During this two part series, participants will:

  • Gain train the trainer tools, skill sets and resources related to identifying and using community assets, plan development and SMART goals.
  • Learn how to apply tools for guiding opportunities to build, sustain, or grow rural youth workforce development within their community.
  • Distinguish between technical, life, soft, and hard skills, and the benefits of each.
  • Increase awareness of how to match youth talents with available opportunities in their community.

Learn More// November 9th, 2020

Building Capacity to Serve Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers:
3-Part Virtual Train-the-Trainer Series

This three-part train-the-trainer series covers some of the major challenges faced by socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and provides professionals serving this audience with a set of tools to help them build capacity among these farmers.

Who Should Attend? This workshop is designed for professionals working to help socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Land-Grant University professionals
  • 2501 Grantees
  • Non-profit Organizations
Participants can join one or all the sessions. However, joining all three will produce the most value. The segment topics are:
  • Farm Financial Literacy
  • Heirs’ Property – Strategies to Identify, Address and Prevent Challenges
  • Extension and Service Provider Strategies for Farm Bill Opportunities
*Please note that participants must register for each workshop individually

Learn More// October 8th, 2020

Webinar – Spanning the Digital Divide: Extension Opportunities to Make a Difference

April 29th @ 12 p.m. CT/1 p.m. ET

The COVID-19 crisis has shown an even harsher light on the digital divide that already plagues the nation. As individuals began efforts to work or learn from home, people that lack broadband access or skills struggle to keep up. What can Cooperative Extension do to help bolster resources to these communities? The National Digital Extension Education Team will share practical guidance into what has been successful in navigating these challenges. Join us for a one hour webinar to explore together.

Learn More// April 23 rd, 2020

Southern CRD Webinar: Rural Resiliency – How to Support Mental Health in Rural Communities

April 14, 2020 @ 1pm CT/2pm ET

Stress is a mounting problem in rural and agricultural communities presenting some particular challenges to providing effective support. Both acknowledgment of stress and access to mental health resources is an important strategy in building rural resiliency. In this webinar we will talk about the current state of rural mental health, how rural stress is becoming more pervasive and a subject of public discourse. We will talk about key partnerships in this work and share some innovative ideas and initiatives happening across the South and ways you can get involved.

Learn More// April 1 st, 2020

Resources for Working During COVID-19

The Regional Rural Development Centers have compiled a list of resources for those working, teaching, and learning remotely. We will be updating this page as additional resources become available. Please send additional resources to be posted to Katherine Spiering.

Learn More// March 26 th, 2020

Southern CRD Webinar: The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing: Addressing Housing Issues from the Bottom Up

March 19, 2020 @ 10am CT/11am ET

This webinar presentation will provide a general overview of housing issues in the U.S. and more specifically the Southeast as well as, outline the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH). It will provide details about how the program operates and outline some successful communities.

Learn More// March 2 nd, 2020

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