How the USDA can help improve community services


Former State Director
USDA for U.S. Rural Development




How can you help municipalities?
Well, that’s a huge part of our mission statement. Through our community programs division, we work with municipalities and non-profits to provide community services, whether that’s water and sewer, whether it’s a hospital, a fire station, or a grant for a police car. We’re there to help provide direct and guarantee funding, along with some grant. Equally as important, we provide technical assistance to rural communities, that don’t always have the staff or the institutional knowledge to know all the different folks that are out there. Resources that can help them put a deal together to improve quality of life and to help maintain and develop economic growth in their communities. We’re there to make the deal great, at the end of the day someone else is in a better position to help, and we’ve brought them together; we’ll back off and move onto the next community.

Are you talking water, sewer? Give us some examples.
Water and sewer is a huge part of what we do – whether it’s creating water in new sewer system or adding capacity to existing ones. In this program, we help build clinics in rural communities, we can build libraries, help fund police cars,  help fund equipment that may be needed, help fund ambulances; anything that may add to the quality of life in a rural community. The only clients we can have for these projects are the municipalities and the non-profits. We work very closely with the non-profit community, but also with county administrator, town managers, boards of supervisors, and town councils.

How do people get in touch with you?
We have offices throughout the state, our state office is here in Virginia. You can call directly there. That number is 804-287-1552, or you can go to our website. If you go to, then go down to the bottom, click on rural development, then click on Virginia, it will show you to all of our offices, and you can see who you need to contact based on where you’re located in the state.

When a new mayor comes into office or a county board of supervisors, what is a thing they learn about you that surprises you the most?
Probably that we exist. People do not realize that the Department of Agriculture has mission area that is essentially a bank, and that’s what we are; we’re a bank for rural communities. For a whole lot of folks, they’re surprised when we say we can make a sewer loan at 4% interest for 40 years. When you’re dealing with a tax base in a rural community, that type of interest rate and those terms make the difference between being able to provide safe drinking water, and a safe environmentally friendly sewer system. So a lot of folks are just surprised to find out about us. We work very closely with Virginia Association of Counties, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and state agencies that are out in rural communities, and they help educate folks about us too. We partner across the board to make things happen in rural Virginia.