WASHINGTON – A grant for has been awarded to the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program to continue operations of the Texas Rural Cooperative Center, according to Congressman Rubén Hinojosa.

The grant funding will be used to provide assistance to rural start-up and existing cooperatives in Texas. The Texas Rural Cooperative Center directly assists in the start-up, expansion and operational improvement of rural businesses, especially cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses.

"USDA continues to assist our rural residents, small businesses and communities in South Texas to be successful and to thrive in today's economy," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. "The training and technical assistance that comes along with this program is invaluable to the success of a variety of enterprises in our rural communities."

Through the Texas Rural Cooperative Center, this grant award will provide the following:

Advocacy - Increase the awareness of rural cooperatives, the services provided by the Center, and the USDA Rural Development programs that support cooperative development. Training - Increase the capacity of start-up and existing cooperatives and mutually owned business through a broad array of training. Technical Assistance - Improve the operating efficiency and sustainability of start-up and existing cooperatives and mutually-owned businesses through technical assistance.

The Texas Rural Cooperative Center will focus on a 25 county South Texas region that has high rates of poverty and are some of the lowest socio-economic indicators in the United States.