By John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Rural Affairs
The depopulation, poverty and low-wage employment facing many rural communities are caused by a lack of opportunity. Creating a future for those communities requires that we commit to fostering opportunity through the building of assets and wealth.
Asset building strategies have both individual and community benefits. Individuals and families build an asset base that lifts the veil of poverty and dependence on low-wage work. Communities become stronger and more viable as opportunities and ownership are expanded to a wider group of people.
The rural development title of the 2007 farm bill should include the Individual Homestead Account provision of the New Homestead Act. Individual Homestead Accounts (IHA) – like Individual Development Accounts employed primarily in urban settings – are matched savings accounts (generally with public funds) that allow tax-free withdrawals to cover costs of developing a small business, obtaining higher education and first-time home purchases
Center for Rural Affairs’ research demonstrates that IHAs could create over 150,000 businesses and over 260,000 jobs in 698 New Homestead Act counties 38 states; counties that have experienced the economic stress of 10 percent or more population loss over the past 20 years and are most in need of hope and opportunity.
The next farm bill presents an opportunity to fundamentally shift rural policy from federal farm and commodity programs that are intended only to prop up the failed farm policies of the past, to farm and rural development policies that invest in the faith, hard work, innovation and entrepreneurship of America’s rural people and places.
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