CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – As part of the Obama Administration’s new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the creation of a new investment fund that will help propel the growth of small businesses across rural America. The new Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) will now allow USDA to facilitate private equity investments in agriculture-related businesses. Currently, USDA programs exist to help provide loans or loan guarantees to help rural businesses grow, but many small cutting-edge businesses also need equity support in addition to or instead of borrowed funds.
Advantage Capital Partners, which will manage the new fund, and their partners from eight Farm Credit institutions have pledged to invest nearly $150 million into the new effort.
“This new fund will allow innovative small businesses throughout rural America to access the capital they need to grow and create jobs,” Vilsack said. “One of USDA’s top priorities is to help reenergize the rural economy, and we now have a powerful new tool available to help achieve that goal. This new partnership will allow us to facilitate private investment in businesses working in bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies and other cutting-edge fields.”
The fund is being formed under the USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). USDA utilizes RBIP to license funds to invest in enterprises that will create growth and job opportunities in rural areas, with an emphasis on smaller enterprises. Working through the USDA program enables licensed funds to raise capital from Farm Credit System banks and associations.
The Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and lending associations specifically chartered to serve agriculture and the U.S. rural economy, is an essential provider of credit to agriculture and rural America. This new partnership between Farm Credit institutions and Advantage Capital, a leading growth capital and small business finance firm, brings together resources and people that are focused on providing more private capital, small business investment and quality jobs to rural America. This public-private partnership will have a tangible positive impact on our rural economy and is a model of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America.
Eight Farm Credit institutions providing initial investments in the RBIC fund are: AgStar Financial Services (Mankato, Minn.); AgriBank (St. Paul, Minn.); Capital Farm Credit (Bryan, Texas); CoBank (Denver, Colo.); Farm Credit Bank of Texas (Austin, Texas); Farm Credit Services of America (Omaha, Neb.); Farm Credit Mid-America (Louisville, Ky.); and United Farm Credit Services (Willmar, Minn.).
USDA also announced that it is accepting new applications for other new Rural Business Investment Companies such as the one announced today. Interested applicants have until July 29th to submit their applications for review in FY2014. Any application accepted after this deadline will be held for consideration next year. USDA intends to accept RBIC applications through 2016, detailed information including application materials and instructions can be found at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_RBIP.html
In addition, Secretary Vilsack said that the White House Rural Council, as part of the Made in Rural America initiative, will convene the Rural Opportunity Investment Conference later this year to attract additional investments to rural America by connecting major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners. This conference will promote opportunities to invest in rural America by highlighting successful projects in energy, biofuels and bioproducts, infrastructure, transportation, water systems, telecommunications, health care, manufacturing, and local and regional food systems. To learn more about the conference, visit www.usda.gov/investmentconference
About the White House Rural Council
To address challenges in Rural America, build on the Administration’s rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. The Council coordinates the Administration’s efforts in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs serving rural America; engage stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, and local citizens, on issues and solutions in rural communities; and promoting and coordinating private-sector partnerships. With the signing of the Farm Bill in early February, President Obama directed the Council to lead a new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, charged with bringing together Federal resources to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad. The work of the White House Rural Council and USDA to bring investment to rural America is an example of how the Administration is creating smart partnerships with the private sector to better support Americans in all parts of the country.
About USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP)
The Rural Business Investment Program promotes economic development in mostly rural areas by helping to meet the equity capital investment needs of smaller enterprises in such areas. USDA licenses newly formed for-profit investment fund entities as Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs). RBICs use the equity raised in capitalizing their fund to make equity and equity-like investments mostly in smaller enterprises located primarily in rural areas.
About the Farm Credit System
For nearly a century, Farm Credit has been a national provider of credit and related services to rural America through its cooperative network of customer-owned lending institutions. Farm Credit provides more than $200 billion in loans and leases to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives. For more information about the Farm Credit System, please visit www.farmcredit.com.
About Advantage Capital Partners
Advantage Capital Partners is a growth capital and small business finance firm focused on providing growth capital and other investments supporting state and local economic development efforts. The firm’s typical forms of investment include venture, expansion equity, mezzanine financing, senior and subordinated loans and government-guaranteed lending. With offices and partners in New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and other U.S. cities, Advantage Capital has invested more than $1.6 billion since 1992. The firm invests in small businesses across a wide range of industries that are located in geographic areas underserved by traditional sources of capital.