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colleen callahan

From Futile to Fertile: Midwest Farmers, Federal Partners Address Drought

The 2012 drought dried up more than just crops. For many U.S. farmers, it also dried up savings, material resources, and perhaps saddest of all, hope.

“The drought of course impacted our crop yields tremendously,” said veteran Ohio dairy farmer Leon Weaver. “Corn yields were about 50 percent of normal. Dairymen are exiting this business in droves.”

But for Weaver and nearly one hundred other Ohio, Michigan and Indiana farmers who gathered recently in rural Henry County, Ohio, hope was a commodity worth trading as they shared, in roundtable fashion, their ideas on how to access resources and rise from the dust.

State Directors Provide USDA Rural Development Overview to Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture

“It’s not just about farmers and ranchers for the State Departments of Agriculture. And it’s not just about rural communities for USDA Rural Development,” said Missouri Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning. Dunning and three other State Directors joined together to introduce Rural Development programs to the Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture (MASDA) in St. Louis recently.

Merrigan Meets Main Street in Momence, Illinois

This week, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan toured the Main Street of Momence, Il, to view the positive growth made possible by USDA’s investments in rural revitalization. The community was decorated with corn stalks and fall mums to welcome Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan to this town of 3,200 people, located 50 miles south of Chicago.  Merrigan and Momence residents enthusiastically toured several businesses that received financing thanks to a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), administered by the USDA Rural Development agency.  Last year USDA provided a $99,000 grant to “Main Street Momence,” a preservation and volunteer based economic development program, to help them establish a revolving, low-interest loan fund.  The program is designed to help small businesses locate or remain in Momence’s historic downtown area. Thirteen months later, four businesses have taken advantage of the increased access to credit by taking out loans. As a result, these businesses have created 27 new full time jobs and saved another 21 in this past year alone.

Illinois Talk Show Brings Home the Value of USDA Home Loans

Written by USDA Public Relations Intern Megan Harrison

In celebration of June as National Homeownership Month, I had the privilege of travelling all over the state of Illinois (from Freeport in northern Illinois to 400 miles south in Carterville, and a few places in between) with Illinois Rural Development staff to watch a “talk show” hosted by our state director, Colleen Callahan.

Safe Water No Longer a Pipe Dream

By Joan Messina, Public Information Coordinator

USDA Rural Development celebrated a magnificent Earth Day in the bright spring sunshine at Vandalia Lake in Fayette County, Illinois, last Thursday.  The clouds rolled away just hours before we joined Fayette Water Company (FWC) to mark the advent of abundant safe water for area residents. With Vandalia Lake as the backdrop, State Director Colleen Callahan announced that Rural Development was providing $1,275,500 in affordable funding to make FWC’s project possible.