The White House Rural Council has announced a $10 billion fund to promote rural economic development by increasing access to capital for rural infrastructure projects.
Announced at the Rural Opportunity Investment Conference, the Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund will enable pension funds, endowments, foundations, and other institutional investors to invest in rural healthcare and educational facilities, water and wastewater systems, energy projects, broadband expansion efforts, and local and regional food systems. Backed by a $10 billion commitment from CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving rural America and a member of the Farm Credit System, the fund will be overseen by Capitol Peak Asset Management.
Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture and chair of the council, also announced that the Rural Business Investment Company, which was created in April, had raised more than $150 million in investment funds from nine Farm Credit institutions to support the growth of small businesses across rural America. New and expanded partnerships announced at the conference include the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a multiyear project of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business; a $1.2 billion investment by the USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program in natural resource conservation aimed at doubling support through partnership contributions over the next five years; and a $5 million funding challenge from the Rural Health Philanthropy Partnership, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Rural Health Policy, Grantmakers in Health, and the National Rural Health Association, that hopes to raise matching funds from the philanthropic community.
"This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country," said Vilsack. "USDA and other agencies invest in infrastructure through a variety of federal initiatives, but our resources are finite, and there are backlogs of projects in many parts of the [country]. We know where investment opportunities exist, so we are in a position to help promote these projects among investors. With new efforts like this, we can move beyond existing programs and help encourage substantial private investment in projects that grow the economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans."