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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces New Private Funds to Make Investments in Rural America

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the launch of two new private funds, known as Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs), which make equity investments in rural businesses, helping them grow and create jobs. This announcement is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to help attract private sector capital to investment opportunities in rural America to help drive more economic growth in rural communities.

"These two new private funds will provide innovative small businesses throughout rural America access to the capital they need to grow and create jobs," Vilsack said. "At USDA, we are working hard to reenergize the rural economy, and we are enlisting more and more private sector partners to help achieve that goal. Rural Business Investment Companies 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."

Innova Memphis and Meritus Kirchner Capital can now begin raising capital to constitute their funds. Meritus Kirchner Capital has set a goal of raising $100 million, while Innova Memphis has set a goal of raising $25 million for their respective funds. Once the funds have been raised, these companies will make equity investments in rural businesses with high-growth potential.

"We are very pleased to be working with USDA to fund innovative, early-stage startups in rural America," said Jan Bouten, partner at Innova Memphis. "This being our fourth fund, we will be able to hit the ground running and build on our strong track record in early-stage investing. We will work with partners such as Memphis Bioworks Foundation and Ag Innovation Development Group to build thriving innovation communities across the country."

"We are appreciative of the leadership Secretary Vilsack and USDA have shown by facilitating the creation of these new RBICs. The RBIC application process was rigorous, with USDA and the Farm Credit Administration participating in an extensive review of all aspects of our management team, track record, and investment strategy. This is a significant milestone because now we formally can begin the fundraising process," said Grady Vanderhoofven, partner at Meritus Kirchner Capital. "The capital we raise will be invested in exceptional growth-stage, agriculture-related and rural companies, which historically have had limited access to this kind of capital. By doing so, we will help create wealth, jobs, and opportunities in rural America."

The new funds announced today were formed under the USDA's Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). USDA is utilizing 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.

Last year, Secretary Vilsack announced the creation of the first new RBIC which has already begun investing in rural businesses with high-growth potential. The $10 billion Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund, also announced last year, facilitates private loans for job-creating rural infrastructure projects across the country.

These efforts are part of the Made in Rural America initiative, which was created by President Obama to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new markets abroad. Secretary Vilsack and the White House Rural Council convened the Rural Opportunity Investment Conference last summer to attract additional investments to rural America by connecting major investors with rural business leaders, government officials, economic development experts and other partners.


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