The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it is creating jobs by spending millions on snowmobiles, fire trucks, studying a "gluten-free mill," and other local initiatives.
The federal agency announced $18.1 million in loans and grants last month, describing the projects as an "efficient way" to benefit taxpayers.
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The spending includes over $150,000 for two snowmobile clubs in Vermont.
The "Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club" will receive $73,572 and "Country Riders Snowmobile" will get $76,832 to "purchase a snowmobile to support local businesses and promote tourism."
Many of the projects appear unrelated to agriculture, including $171,000 to build a parking lot in Marianna, Fla., and a $1,760,000 zero-interest loan to expand a retirement community in Orange City, Iowa. Another project will cost taxpayers $85,000 to "beautify a downtown area into an attractive park" in Boonville, Ind.
A quarter of a million dollars is being spent to build a "medically oriented gym" in Iowa. Funds will also go towards local fire departments, including $200,000 for a fire engine in Trenton, N.C., and $300,000 to help build a fire station in South Dakota.
Two local Chamber of Commerce offices in Tennessee will receive $10,000 and $3,500 on "various marketing materials," and a nonprofit organization in Vermont is getting $78,098 for a "promotional campaign to attract Canadian shoppers."
The Stewart County Government in Tennessee will also get $51,000 for an "LED programmable sign and kiosk."
One agriculture-related project is spending $37,000 to "study the feasibility of a gluten-free mill" in Towner, Colo.
"I am proud of the work USDA has done to help small businesses grow in rural America because they are the engine that creates jobs," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These funds will allow small and emerging businesses and the organizations that support them to get the financing they need to strengthen their operations, create jobs, and expand economic opportunities."
"Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, we can continue this work in a more streamlined and efficient way to benefit small businesses and the American taxpayer," he said.
The funding comes from the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which is distributing over $18 million through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program, the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), and the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program.
The agency said it has issued over 20,000 similar grants and loans since President Obama took office.
The USDA did not return request for comment by press time.