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Brownfields Redevelopment

Rural communities themselves are not exempt from the effects of environmental contamination. Thousands of "brownfields", abandoned industries and businesses, such as mills, factories and closed gasoline stations are actual or perceived sources of environmental contamination. In a rural community, the impact can be even more devastating if the failed business is the sole large employer. A central blighted property also increases pressure to develop surrounding farmland or "greenfields." USDA helps support rural redevelopment through programs in the Rural Development and Natural Resources and Environment Mission areas. USDA R&R serves as the primary contact point for communities needing USDA assistance with a brownfields project. We also have a special interest on brownfields associated with mine scarred lands and communities from a cleanup and redevelopment perspective.

Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous materials. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties lessens development pressures on undeveloped, open land and both improves and protects the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manages a national Brownfield program under the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. USDA is a key federal partner in the national Brownfields program.

Resources Available for Community Redevelopment
USDA is organized into seven different mission areas. Two of these areas are uniquely tailored to provide redevelopment assistance to Brownfields communities - although USDA does not have a specific program targeted for Brownfields redevelopment. Improving the quality of life in rural America is one of our key strategic goals. USDA is also structured to help individual communities directly in the field and not through regional offices. Typically, USDA programs are conducted on a state by state basis and further subdivided into districts within each state. For more information on USDA brownfields assistance, contact the USDA Brownfields Coordinator at or your state's Rural Development office.

Rural Development (RD) Mission Area:
The most helpful programs for redevelopment are found in the Rural Development mission area. State maps with state and district office contact information are found on the "Contact us" link on the Rural Development webpage. USDA Rural Development funds have been used as a part of redevelopment at Brownfields sites for projects as basic as low income housing and sewer and water improvements to libraries, town halls and health clinics. Eligibility requirements vary by program but generally are available for communities under 25,000.
Rural Development programs include:

Natural Resource Conservation Service:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has a Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) program. RC&Ds are local councils comprised of local businessmen, financiers, environmentalists, and developers with an NRCS employee serving as the administrative support. The purpose of the RC&D program is to assist and help fund a wide variety of local projects to improve the environment and conserve natural resources.

For information on your local RC&D Council, contact your State NRCS Office or local NRCS Service Center.

Other USDA Mission Areas:
There are many other agencies and programs within USDA that can provide assistance to local communities as part of a Brownfields redevelopment project. The universities in your area more than likely have USDA programs associated with the Cooperative Extension Service or are located within your county. The 4-H programs or Food and Nutrition Service programs have also participated in projects such as vegetable gardens and healthy foods projects. The Agricultural Research Service provides technical assistance to communities that are developing innovative agricultural projects. The Agricultural Marketing Service has also supported the development of bio-based products and other innovative uses of agricultural products. There are 19 USDA agencies with programs designed to help support your redevelopment project.