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USDA focuses on rural development

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Sarah Adler, left, state director of the USDA Rural Development, discusses a program with Churchill County Commissioner Bus Scharmann and Janis Wood, president of CEDA's Business Council.
STEVE RANSON / LVN |

Sarah Adler is bullish on rural Nevada.

As the state director of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development, Adler ensures the quality of life keeps improving for thousands of Nevadans.

“The USDA was formed 152 years ago … and charged with assisting rural America to be a vibrant place,” she said when addressing the monthly Churchill Economic Development Authority’s Business Council breakfast.

Adler then directed her remarks to Churchill County.

“We still need the rural places for the military to exist and to grow food. The USDA provides access to resources and capital,” she added.

Adler said changes are coming for rural Nevada because of the business growth in the Reno-Sparks-Carson City corridor and in southern Nevada. She cited the work of CEDA that is attracting new business to Fallon and specifically to an industrial area north of the Truckee Meadows and east to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, which is expanding with such firms as Tesla.

As businesses build and attract workers and their families to western Nevada, Adler said people new to the area need a place to live, and they should consider communities east of TRIC because of affordability. She said families must decide if they want to be “first string or third string” with themselves and with their school-age children. Adler explained that more opportunities exist in education and athletics for students than in the Reno area because rural schools are smaller, and everyone has a chance to compete in many activities.

Adler said communities such as Fallon should embrace growth with “welcome to my backyard” rather than with the familiar cliché of “not in my backyard.”

The USDA Rural Development has invested $81 million in Churchill County, most of which is in loan guarantees.

“Our whole idea is to help people climb into the middle class,” said Adler, who has been director of Rural Development since 2009. “We are here for people who are good credit managers.”

Business Programs Loan Specialist Michelle Kelly said she has done work with the Food Hub and Fallon Theatres in addition to other local businesses such as the New River Surgical Arts and Comfort Inn, which received a grant for energy proficiency improvements.

According to Kelly, the Fallon Theatres community group received a grant to purchase a digital computer for showing movies and then leased it to the current owner. Kelly said the USDA Rural Development in Nevada was one of the first states to have a Value Added Producer Grant, which provides funds for either planning or working capital.

For example, she said USDA awarded a grant to the Frey Ranch for capital funds for marketing their products and assisted the start of the Food Hub with a grant.

“CEDA joined hands with agriculture to develop food distribution,” Adler said.

Betty Percifield, an area specialist for USDA who lives in Fallon, deals with housing loans.

“We focus on low income individuals who can’t afford a regular home loan,” she said, adding Rural Development has provided support to new projects in Churchill County, such as the senior center and the law enforcement detention facility. “This is reflective of what’s going on in your community.”

Adler said USDA has also worked with the New Frontier Treatment Center and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe.

“You are a terrific, caring progressive hardworking community, and we are glad to be on your team,” Adler said.