Biden invests $5 billion to support rural communities, including in Virginia

President Joe Biden talks with guests after speaking at Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minn., Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Isabel Soisson

November 7, 2023

The Biden administration last week announced over $5 billion in new investments in rural communities across the country, as part of its effort to increase prosperity in all corners of the country.

Speaking at an event in Minnesota last week where the funding was announced, President Biden said that rural communities have, over the past few decades, “lost more than jobs.”

“They lost their sense of dignity, opportunity, pride,” he said. “My plan is about investing in rural America, but it’s about something else as well: it’s about restoring pride in rural communities that have been left behind for far too long.”

The funds will go towards economic development, competition, and sustainability by updating infrastructure, boosting high-speed internet, and helping agricultural producers and small businesses adopt climate-focused practices.

The funding comes from Biden’s Investing in America agenda, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

One hundred forty-five million of the total funding will be used across 700 loan and grant awards through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps farmers and other agricultural producers make “energy efficiency improvements” to their businesses to lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations.

In Virginia, Last Hurrah LLC, a poultry farm in Accomack County, will use a $420,000 grant to purchase and install a 577.15 kilowatt roof photovoltaic system; the energy generated from the new system is projected to offset almost 100% of the electricity consumption for the houses in the area with a simple payback of approximately 17 years.

Jaylin Farms Inc. in Augusta County will also use a $25,000 loan to purchase and install a grain dryer, which will help to increase the energy efficiency of its 750-acre corn and soybean operation.

Two billion dollars of the funding will be distributed across 99 economic development projects in nine states and Puerto Rico. This funding will be used to create jobs and build infrastructure, as well as increase access to quality health care, affordable housing, and clean water and energy.

The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) will also use $1.7 billion of the funds to adopt “climate-smart agricultural practices.” These include working with farmers to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizer to ensure that less nitrous oxide—a potent greenhouse gas—gets into the air; growing crops that naturally sequester carbon, and therefore improve soil quality; farming in a way that limits soil disturbance; and more.

In addition to helping the environment, these climate-focused practices are expected to offer farmers, ranchers, and foresters new revenue streams.

Two hundred seventy-four million dollars will be distributed across 16 grant and loan awards to expand access to high-speed internet for Americans living in eight states. The majority of that $274 million comes from the ReConnect Program, which is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program helps ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high-speed internet.

Finally, $145 million of the total funding will be used across 700 loan and grant awards through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which helps farmers and other agricultural producers make “energy efficiency improvements” to their businesses to lower energy costs, generate new income, and strengthen the resiliency of their operations.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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