U.S. launches $10 billion rural infrastructure fund

WASHINGTON, July 24 Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:59am EDT

WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Thursday launched a $10 billion rural infrastructure fund that it hopes will jump-start investments in a wide range of projects in farm states.

CoBank, a cooperative bank that serves rural America and is a member of the Farm Credit System, will be the fund's anchor investor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

"Many major investors in urban centers aren't always aware of the significant investment opportunities in rural communities," said Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary and chair of the White House Rural Council.

"This fund represents a new approach to our support for job-creating projects across the country."

Denver-based investment firm Capital Peak Asset Management will manage the new fund and work to recruit more investors. USDA and other federal agencies will help identify suitable rural projects for funding.

Target investments will include community assets, including housing, healthcare and educational projects, rural water and wastewater systems, rural energy projects, broadband expansion efforts, local and regional food systems, and other infrastructure.

Although the U.S. heartland has enjoyed several years of economic prosperity from high crop and livestock prices, states have also faced a long-term population drain because of limited job opportunities, and often lag on access to healthcare, speedy Internet access and other facilities.

The council, created in 2011, this week held its first conference to promote potential investment opportunities across rural America, attracting leaders from the business community and banks, government officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, development experts and others. (Reporting by Ros Krasny; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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