Planning districts partner with USDA Rural Development to deliver services

Farm Forum

Huron, S.D. – USDA Rural Development in South Dakota has partnered with six statewide planning districts in South Dakota to enhance program accessibility in underserved rural areas and communities. Through a coordinated effort, workshops, individual meetings and opportunity sessions were held throughout the state to provide information and technical assistance for USDA Rural Development programs.

“Our agency is excited to be partnering with the planning districts,” said USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Bruce Jones. “This provides us with a great opportunity by leveraging partnerships and resources, as well as make advancements in economic development, cooperation, and coordination of projects.”

The Northeast Council of Governments (NECOG) entered into a Rural Development Cooperative Agreement receiving $40,000 to coordinate the work plan with the other five planning districts including First District Association of Local Governments, South Eastern Council of Governments, Central South Dakota Enhancement District, Planning & Development District III, and Black Hills Council of Governments. Targeted areas and needs will be assessed through Community Economic Development community assessments completed by USDA Rural Development staff.

Deliverables from these sessions included providing information to 40 cities, counties, and other community entities about USDA Rural Development programs; District staff held 13 follow-up meetings to meet with prospective applicants related to projects using an USDA Rural Development program; eight meetings were held where USDA Rural Development staff presented general information about available programs; and District staff assisted with submitting 15 applications for various USDA Rural Development programs. Several of the applications submitted to USDA Rural Development or considering USDA Rural Development funding have the potential for additional programs to be included. Information provided to the applicants includes active participation by the Districts to make sure that program requirements work together and the funding packages are coordinated accordingly. In addition, quarterly conversations occur between the planning districts and USDA Rural Development staff to allow discussion on current and developing projects.

An example, of a successful recipient through this partnering which is also the first of its kind for South Dakota between USDA and a Planning District, is the City of Miller. The City received a USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal loan in the amount of $4,500,000 to replace the sewer and storm drainage lines.

“We have had an excellent working relationship with NECOG for many years,” said Ron Blachford, Mayor for the City of Miller. “Ted Dickey, NECOG, has been a very helpful, valuable resource for planning and funding the sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water for our current projects as well as prior projects throughout the years.”

“This project has provided District staff and USDA Rural Development staff with the knowledge to know projects that were in development as well as to exchange information on the current status of existing projects,” said Eric Senger, Executive Director of the Northeast Council of Governments. “The meetings have had a direct benefit in assuring projects have stayed on track and provided improved assistance to the applicant.”

This agreement is in effect for one year and complements the USDA and the StrikeForce Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative by expanding access to Rural Development program resources.

USDA Rural Development has eight offices in the state that assist rural communities. Office locations include a state office in Huron, along with area offices in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Yankton.