Investigating the 'Bank for Rural America'
Since the 1970s, a little-known loan program from the Agriculture Department has endured nearly $1.5 billion in losses -- while backing almost $14 billion in guarantees to private banks.
That's the latest finding in The Post's ongoing investigation of waste, fraud and abuse in the nation's farm support programs. In today's installment, Gilbert M. Gaul shows how loans or grants that are supposed to improve rural development were given to a car wash in Milford, Del.; a country club in Great Falls, Mont.; a movie theater in Smithfield, N.C.; a water park in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; an alligator hunter in Dade City, Fla.; snowmobile clubs in Maine; and dozens of gas stations and convenience stores in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Agriculture officials call the system an 'investment bank for rural America.'
Update: In response to The Post's investigation, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business, today called for stronger oversight of the loan program and said the administration should act fast to recover the money and prevent more losses. Kerry held a hearing last month to look into problems with other loans originated by Business Loan Express, a company spotlighted in The Post's article.
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