What is an RCDG?
The goal of the RCDG program is to help establish and operate Cooperative Development Centers that have the primary purpose of improving the economic condition of rural areas through the development of new cooperatives and the improvement of operations of existing cooperatives. The grant is intended to help centers provide technical assistance to individuals and entities. Applications are only accepted during specific times of the year when the program status is open.

How much funding has been available?

The amount of funding made available through the RCDG changes every year. Each year, Congress allocates a specific amount of funding for this grant, and in addition to these mandatory funding levels, there may also be discretionary funding issued each year. The application requires that 25% (5% for 1994 Institutions) of the project funds must be non-federal funds. Matching funds can be provided by either the applicant or a third party in the form of cash or an in-kind contribution. The RCDG cycle for FY 2020, has total funding of $5.8 million with a maximum grant amount award of $200,000. Grants must be submitted online through Grants.gov and the deadline to apply is August 3, 2020.


The USDA award approximately $5.8 million in funding for the FY 2019 RCDG cycle. To view current list of awardees, click here and here.


The USDA announced approximately $5.8 million in available funding for FY 2018 with a maximum grant amount of $200,000. To view a full list of awardees, click here.


The USDA announced approximately $5.8 million in available funding for FY 2016. To view a full list of awardees, visit here.


In 2015, the program funded 30 projects for a total award of $5.8 million in available funding. A full list of awardees can be found here.


How can the funds be used?
Grant funds may be used to pay up to 75% (95% if the grantee is a 1994 Institution) of the cost of establishing and operating centers for rural cooperative development, including:

  • Applied research
  • Feasibility studies
  • Environmental studies
  • Collection, interpretation, and dissemination of principles, facts, technical knowledge, or other information
  • Providing loans and grants
  • Providing technical assistance, research services, and advisory services

Who can apply?
RCDGs are only available to nonprofit corporations or higher education institutions. Public bodies and individuals cannot apply for this program.

How are RCDG Applications Scored?
Eligible and complete applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria with the maximum amount of points available being 110:

  • Administrative capabilities in financial systems and audit controls, personnel and program administration performance measures, clear written rules of governance, and experience administering Federal grant funding no later than the last 5 years, including but not limited to past RCDGs.  Max. 10 points. 
  • Technical assistance and other services, including the applicant’s demonstrated expertise no later than the last 5 years in providing technical assistance and accomplishing effective outcomes in rural areas. Max. 10 points.
  • Economic development, including the applicant’s demonstrated ability to facilitate, among other things, the establishment of cooperatives or mutually-owned businesses, new cooperative approaches, and the retention of businesses. Max. 10 points. 
  • Past experience in establishing legal business entities. Max. 10 points. 
  • Networking and regional focus, including demonstrated commitment to networking with other cooperative development centers and other organizations involved in rural economic development efforts, and developing multi-organization and multi-state approaches to addressing economic development and cooperative needs of rural areas. Max. 10 points. 
  • Commitment, including demonstrating the applicant’s commitment to providing technical assistance and other services to underserved and economically distressed areas in rural areas of the US. Max. 10 points. 
  • Matching Funds, showing match commitment of 25% (5% for 1994 Institutions). Max. 10 points. 
  • Work Plan/Budget presenting a breakdown of the estimated costs associated with cooperative and business development activities as well as the operation of the Center, as well as accounting for Matching and grant funds. Max. 10 points. 
  • Qualifications of those Performing the Tasks demonstrating personnel’s  positive and successful track record as well as full/part-time status of employees or contract personnel. Max. 10 points. 
  • Local and future support plans with other organizations or state and local government institutions in the proposed service area. Max 10 points. 
  • Note that some organizations that have never been awarded an RCDG grant may be awarded Administrator Discretionary Points based on the organization’s plan’s support of certain strategic investments. Max. 10 points. 

For more information, visit the USDA’s website.