USDA announced that USDA Rural Development is accepting pre-applications for loans and grants to build or rehabilitate rural rental housing for domestic farmworkers.

"The Obama Administration believes that strong rural communities are a key to a stronger America. Through this program, USDA is offering financial assistance to expand the availability of safe, affordable rental housing for farmworkers," Vilsack said. "The Department's support for rural rental housing not only helps creates jobs and related employment when new units are constructed, it also does so through the rehabilitation of existing ones."

Through the Rural Housing Service, USDA plans to award loans and grants to increase the supply of available rental housing for domestic farm laborers. The housing is intended for any domestic farm laborer who receives a substantial portion of his/her income from the primary production of processed or unprocessed agricultural or aquacultural commodities. It must be operated on a non-profit basis. Groups eligible for the loans and grants include housing authorities, state and local governments, Indian tribes, non-profit organizations, and community- and faith-based groups.

Entities that construct new, off-farm housing for farm workers may be eligible for operating or rental assistance in addition to construction/rehabilitation loans and grants. Under the rental assistance program, USDA Rural Development pays the owner of a housing complex the difference between the tenant's contribution (30 percent of his or her adjusted income) and the monthly rental rate.

Priority will be given to applicants seeking funds for housing projects that are energy efficient and generate energy – such as through geo-exchange systems, wind turbines and photovoltaic systems. In addition, points and consideration will be given for property management green certifications from a variety of credentialing entities.

The application process will be in two phases: the initial pre-application (or proposal) and the submission of a final application. Only those pre-applications or proposals that are selected for further processing will be invited to submit final applications.

For additional information, see page 42258 of the July 18, Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-07-18/pdf/2012-17462.pdf. The deadline for submitting pre-applications is Sept. 17, 2012.