By Stan Keasling, RCAC chief executive officer

The mark-up of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) budget was completed in both the House and Senate. The Senate kept all of the housing programs at fiscal year 2014 levels. The House was even more generous, increasing the 523 program to $30 million and the 502 direct program to $1.042 billion. It looks like these appropriation bills will proceed and may even get passed before the end of the fiscal year. Conference committees will be selected to negotiate the House and Senate budget funding levels in September; at that time we will need all of you to reach out to your Representative to secure the House funding levels.

We are currently working with RD to improve its packaging demonstration that we have been involved in for the past several years. In the demonstration, loan packages are first submitted to RCAC’s office for review and refinement before going to RD. In several states, our staff has built a rapport with the local RD offices. This relationship has resulted in loan approvals in one to two weeks. I know that many of you have good working relationships with your local RD offices, but I also know many of you are complaining about the time it takes to get loans through RD offices. I believe the demonstration can be more successful if RD allows RCAC to work directly with the self-help grantees. I am discussing this new option with RD, but I would like to know how many of you would be interested in participating in the demonstration if we can convince RD to allow it. If you would be interested in participating, please send me an e-mail at and I will keep you informed as the discussion progresses.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.