Lyons, Nebraska - Today, the Center for Rural Affairs urged Congress to make historic investments in the Rural Development Title of the 2007 Farm Bill.
The Center’s Rural Community and Entrepreneurship Investment Initiative calls for an additional one-half billion dollar investment – a four-fold increase – in local entrepreneurial strategies that have been demonstrated to work in revitalizing rural communities.
“It’s time for an historic investment in the future of rural America,” said Chuck Hassebrook, Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director. “The 2002 Farm Bill is sapping the lifeblood out of rural America and destroying family farming. It’s time for change.”
The Center’s proposed quadrupling of rural entrepreneurial development could be funded, at no additional cost to taxpayers, by tightening limitations on payments to mega farms. Payment limitation reforms that reduce the cost of farm programs by just five percent would fund the Center’s proposal and provide an additional $250 million for investment in bio-energy, broadband telecommunications and rural development related research.
According to Hassebrook, “This is a win-win solution. It frees up funds to invest in the future of rural America and it strengthens family farms. The most effective thing congress could do to strengthen family farms is to cap the subsidies that mega farms use to drive smaller operations out of business. That is why more than 80 percent of farmers support reducing payments to large farms.”
The Center’s proposed rural development package outlines four key areas where public investment in entrepreneurship, innovation and asset-building can create genuine economic opportunity for rural people.
- Rural Entrepreneurs – assist rural entrepreneurs in acquiring skills, capital and technical assistance as well as building networks necessary to establish and grow new farms, ranches and small businesses in rural places.
- Rural Communities – assist rural communities in developing leadership, youth engagement and entrepreneurial development initiatives as well as entrepreneurial education opportunities.
- Rural Families – through the creation of Individual Development Accounts, assist families and individuals living in rural counties experiencing severe depopulation to create savings to buy a home or start a small business, farm or ranch in those counties or obtain education and training.
- Family Farm and Ranch Innovation – assist farmers and ranchers in pursuing high-value, consumer driven markets for their products, creating enhanced economic opportunities in rural communities. Invest resources in innovative cooperatives and other ventures that increase the profitability and viability of family farms and ranches.
“Rural Americans know there are rural revitalization strategies that work out here in the countryside. And the 2007 Farm Bill should focus on what works for all of rural America,” said Hassebrook.
According to the Center, entrepreneurial development and asset-building strategies help make rural communities stronger and more viable as opportunities are expanded and ownership and economic opportunity are extended to more rural people.
“Our proposals are based on solutions to challenges faced by rural communities; solutions derived, not from theories, but from the shared experiences of rural people from across the nation working diligently to revitalize their communities,” explained Hassebrook.
“America is strongest when all of its communities are strong and all of its people have access to genuine opportunity. Rural America is a valuable part of America. But rural communities are not sharing in the nation’s prosperity. This hurts all of us,” concluded Hassebrook.
The Center points out that the need for this historic investment rural entrepreneurial development is demonstrated by recently released Bureau of Economic Analysis data for 2004. The data revealed that 226 of the 250 lowest income counties in the U.S. are rural – 10 of the 10 lowest income counties are rural and 19 of the 20 lowest income counties are rural. Texas counties make up 5 of the 10 lowest income counties and 6 of the 20 lowest income counties. Nebraska, South Dakota, Florida and Kentucky all have 2 or more rural counties in the group of 20 lowest income counties.
The Center for Rural Affairs’ 2007 Farm Bill Rural Development Title Proposal is available on the web at www.cfra.org/pdf/2007FarmBill_RuralDevelopment.pdf.
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