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USDA Develops Rural Water Quality Task Force Report and Updates Rural Population Limits

This week as part of the new 2018 Farm Bill requirements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) held a meeting with stakeholders to get input on its Rural Water Quality Task Force Report and announced that it is changing the rural population limits, fees, and funding priorities for several loan guarantee programs.

Rural Water Quality Task Force Report Meeting: On October 8th, USDA RD held a stakeholder meeting on the Interagency Rural Water Quality Task Force Report that convened representatives from state and water utility associations and technical assistance providers including ASDWA, GWPC, AWWA, NRWA, RCAP, and NACD (who are also all National Source Water Collaborative members), and more. The Task Force includes representatives of seven federal agencies – the Departments of Agriculture, Army, Commerce, Interior, HHS, HUD, and EPA. The purpose of the Task Force is to examine drinking water and surface water contamination in rural communities, particularly where they are in close proximity to active or decommissioned military installations in the US and develop a report by the end of December 2019.

The participants at the meeting and via the web provided input on water quality issues, challenges, partnership examples, and recommendations to assist and support rural communities. Participant comments highlighted that these communities lack capacity and resources and require technical assistance and partners to help them: protect public health from a variety of water quality contaminants in ground water and surface water; and address long-term infrastructure needs, source water protection outside of their jurisdiction and control, and preparation and response to water quality contamination and extreme weather events. Participants also shared information about the existing partnerships and resources available from federal agencies, state government, water associations and other NGOs to assist rural communities with site specific needs and approaches. For more information, view the meeting presentation slides.

Updated Rural Population Limits for Loan Programs: On October 3rd, USDA RD published a notice on Farm Bill changes to rural population limits and other eligibility rules for several guaranteed loan programs as follows:

  • USDA RD will increase the rural population eligibility limit to 50,000 residents for the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan Program and the Water and Waste Disposal Loan Program.
  • FY ’20, projects located in rural areas with a population of 10,000 or fewer residents will receive priority for Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantee Program financing.

These changes are effective December 2, 2019. Though, applications for for projects may be submitted starting immediately. For more information, visit the USDA RD website.