WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced the award of $1.9 million in grant funds to the Delta Regional Authority to fund projects in eight states.

The funding will provide for technical assistance and promote job and business creation through the USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant, Rural Business Opportunity Grant and Community Facilities programs.

"The future of rural America is bright and these funds will help ensure that the residents of communities in the Delta Region will be provided with enhanced business and employment opportunities," said Johanns. According to the Labor Department, the economy has created more than 1.7 million jobs over the past 12 months - and more than 5.7 million jobs since August 2003. USDA Rural Development has created an estimated 240,000 jobs during the past year.

The Delta Regional Authority serves an eight-state region including 240 counties and parishes in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, and is a partnership between the Federal Government and the States. The governor of each state and a federal co-chairman lead the DRA to assist economically distressed communities with infrastructure development, transportation improvements, business creation and job training.

This year's funding represents an increase of almost a quarter million dollars over last year's allocation. A total of $780,000 in state projects and $1.2 million in DRA projects were funded with fiscal year 2006 funds.

One of the projects funded through the Delta Regional Authority is "Health as an Economic Engine, Phase II." The Authority will invest $257,000 in grant funds to broaden the University of Mississippi Medical Center's medical outreach efforts, including opening a diabetes management program, which will eventually support itself from the revenue it generates. The program will create jobs and promote a healthy workforce through the treatment of diabetes patients.

A complete list of the projects is available at: www.rurdev.usda.gov.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities.

SOURCE: USDA news release.