March 1, 2024, HOUSTON– During a visit to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo today, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with Texas Rural Funders (TRF) and partners to discuss the deployment of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investments and resources to rural Texas, including underserved communities.

“Texas has the largest rural population of any state in the country, and USDA offers a unique portfolio of programs and investments designed for the needs of America’s rural families, small towns, farms and small businesses. Too often, however, the communities who most stand to benefit from federal grants and loans to modernize infrastructure, secure high-speed internet connection, and take part in local and regional food systems lack the staff and resources needed to access funding that’s meant for them,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Texas Rural Funders have been instrumental in helping bridge this gap in rural Texas, especially as we deliver the historic federal funding made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. They, like USDA, understand young people from rural areas shouldn’t have to leave home to build a good life, and we appreciate their vital partnership.”

The mission of Texas Rural Funders is to mobilize the power of philanthropy to strengthen rural Texas. Members of Texas Rural Funders provide grants that support staffing, technical assistance, and matching funds that not only facilitate innovation, but also enable rural communities to unlock additional investments.

“Federal and state funding opens the door to building capacity and opportunity for rural Texans, but private philanthropy plays a critical role in making sure communities are ripe for investment,” said Dr. Kelty Garbee, Executive Director of the Texas Rural Funders. “While challenges meeting critical infrastructure needs persist in rural communities, all Texas families and businesses deserve access to broadband, water, education, and healthcare, because thriving rural communities are central to the long-term success of our state.”

“We can support rural families, businesses, and communities by using public-private partnerships to ensure that federal funding has the greatest impact possible in rural areas. We believe long-term success rests on our ability to build capacity, something Texas Rural Funders and our members do each and every day for the Texans we serve,” said Dr. Wynn Rosser, President and CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and President of the Board of Directors of Texas Rural Funders.

In conversation with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack pointed to USDA investments in Texas that are building critical infrastructure for rural communities and leveraging investments and support from philanthropy. For example:

  • Tatum Telephone received a grant and loan for $1,451,770. This investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises and hybrid-fiber-coax network to provide high-speed internet. This network will benefit 520 people, 25 businesses, one farm and two educational facilities in Panola County.
  • Eastex Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (“Eastex”) was awarded $25 million from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service ReConnect Round 4 program. Combined with Eastex’s investment of $8.4 million, these funds will deliver high-speed fiber-to-the-premises Internet service to Eastex’s existing customers in the socially vulnerable communities of Maydelle and Hudson Chapel within Cherokee and Anderson Counties.
  •  City of Idalou will use a $2,850,000 water and waste disposal loan to replace the aged, elevated storage tank with a 100,000 single pedestal elevated storage tank. In addition, a water treatment facility will be constructed to eliminate well contamination. This project will benefit 2,250 rural customers.
  •  McClelland Water Supply Corporation – will use a $1,980,000 water and waste disposal loan to make improvements to Plant 1, construct a second plant, and upgrade approximately 22 miles of distribution lines throughout the corporation’s service area. McClelland Water Supply Corporation serves approximately 2,000 residents located south of Shelbyville, Texas.

Texas Rural Funders maintains a Grants Hub for rural communities to find state, federal, and private funding for infrastructure, education, healthcare, and many other needs. It also includes a list of vetted grant writers. Visit the Texas Rural Funders’ online Grants Hub to find grant opportunities and resources for rural communities: https://texasruralfunders.org/grant/.

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Texas Rural Funders is dedicated to helping its members build knowledge about, generate attention and resources toward, and engage in collaborative action for rural Texas. Online at texasruralfunders.org