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USDA on Guam promoting programs

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are on island meeting with local leaders and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission. Their programs are invaluable for the Commission, which has struggled with funding since its inception.

"Today was really to inform the Chamorro Land Trust leadership about the provision under the 2008 Farm Bill 902 that would provide some benefits to some of our rural utilities services program to service some of Chamorro land trust lands," explained  

USDA Development State Director from Hawaii Chris Kanazawa. He's on Guam delivering some good news that will benefit CLTC leaseholders.

He continued, "I think it's going to be able to provide the availability of infrastructure - in terms of sewer and water infrastructure, in terms of telecommunications, distance learning infrastructure, broadband for Chamorro Land Trust land. So I think it will benefit the overall development of these lands."

According to Kanazawa, he is here to gather information to come up with the rules and regulations that will set the procedures for CLTC leaseholders and other qualified families in Guam to apply for the USDA's programs designated substantially underserved trust areas. "The next step is we are taking all this information, and keep in mind we've done these types of consultations throughout the United States also, with native Americans, native Alaskans, native Hawaiians," he said. "We are going to put all of this together and file a report to Washington in June and then from there once that's approved then we will finalize the regulations."

CLTC administrator Monte Mafnas says it's a step in the right direction for an agency that's struggled over the years but now is finally on the road to recovery. "It means that we can work hand in hand to identify funding for infrastructure that can enable the people of Guam to finally build. It's a long process but funding it there it's just a matter of presenting a case and doing our due diligence in identifying actual costs and also with the viability of grants to kick in for the loans. The thing about it is those infrastructure loans can be pegged at two percent interest, which is extremely low," he said.

According to Mafnas and Kanazawa, a part of the information gathering will go toward crafting a master plan that includes laying out and designing how CLTC land can be developed. Said Mafnas, "Also we want to master plan the subdivision to try and highlight some issues of the land, the utilities and other infrastructures like inconvenience of public safety too, like schools and green space areas and bus shelters and police and health clinics."

Both USDA and the CLTC hope that by next fiscal year people can start applying for these federal programs.

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