The National Association of Counties e-mailed an announcement explaining a letter sent to members of the House of Representative asking for funding of the rural development title in the farm bill. A total of 72 organizations signed onto the letter. 

It is claimed that since 1996 Congress has provided an average of $413 million per farm bill in mandatory funding for the rural development title, but the current draft House bill includes only $50 million in mandatory funding and cuts authorization levels by $1.5 billion over five years, which is a 66 percent cut in mandatory funding and 50 percent cut in authorization levels.

The letter suggests that creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national priorities that the rural development title accomplishes. Those signing the letter are also in support of the McIntyre amendment that “restores critical funding” for water and wastewater backlogs.

“The farm bill’s rural development title, which authorizes essential grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in rural areas, is critical to advancing both of these priorities,” the letter contends.  It also said the funding “dramatically reduces critical investments in rural economic development and misses the opportunity to make important policy changes that will improve these programs for rural people, places and businesses.

The letter says there are common sense policy changes to rural development programs that could be authorized and suggests some of those were included in the Senate farm bill.

The letter is below and includes the 72 organizations that included their support:

July 10, 2012

Dear Representative:

Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are
national priorities. The Farm Bill’s Rural Development title, which authorizes essential grants
and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in rural
areas, is critical to advancing both of these priorities. We applaud Chairman Lucas and Ranking
Member Peterson for their tireless leadership in moving ahead with reauthorization of the Farm
Bill. However, the chairman’s mark dramatically reduces critical investments in rural economic
development and misses the opportunity to make important policy changes that will improve
these programs for rural people, places and businesses.

Since 1996, Congress has provided an average of $413 million per farm bill in mandatory
funding for the Rural Development title. The current draft House bill includes only $50 million
in mandatory funding and cuts authorization levels by $1.5 billion over five years, which
represents a 66 percent cut in mandatory funding and 50 percent cut in authorization levels.
We urge you to correct this deficiency by supporting amendments during mark up that will
reinstate mandatory funding for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and the
Water/Wastewater Backlog. We also ask that you work to protect the $50 million in the mark for
the Value Added Producer Grant program. The Senate passed bill maintains mandatory funding
for all three of these successful Rural Development programs.

The Senate bill also includes bipartisan and common sense policy changes to rural development
programs which make authorizing language clearer, simpler and more effective for rural people,
businesses and places. The chairman’s mark provides two important policy changes that will
simplify application forms and improve program metrics, but we urge you to support
amendments that will make broader bipartisan policy amendments found in the Senate
bill.Specifically, we support provisions which will allow USDA to focus resources on strategic
community and economic development plans on a multijurisdictional basis and a new technical
assistance authority for the Essential Community Facilities Program.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We strongly encourage you to reach out
and work with other interested colleagues prior to markup. By ensuring policy improvements
and continued investments in rural economic development, we can ensure that the Farm Bill is a
“jobs” bill that underpins and enables economic growth in rural communities throughout
America. We look forward to working together on this important matter for American agriculture
and America’s rural communities.

Sincerely,

Caldwell County Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA)
American Planning Association
American Public Works Association
Arkansas Public Policy Panel
Art of Regional Change
Art of the Rural
Association of Rural Communities in Texas
California Center for Rural Policy
California FarmLink
Center for Independent Living for Western Wisconsin
Center for Rural Affairs
Community Food Security Coalition
Corporation for Enterprise Development
Dakota Rural Action
Delta Land & Community
disAbility Resource Center, Charleston, SC
Double Edge Theatre - The Farm Center
Ecological Farming Association
Farmers Market Coalition
Food System Economic Development
FRESHFARM Markets
HomeCorps
Homestead Affordable Housing, Inc
Hoopa Valley Tribe
Housing Assistance Council
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
League of Rural Voters
Llano Grande Center for Research and Development
Maine Rural Partners
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Midwest Assistance Program, the Midwest RCAP
Milan MOVERS
Minnesota Housing Partnership
National Association of Counties
National Association of Regional Councils
National Association of Towns and Townships
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Grange
National League of Cities
National Network of Forest Practitioners
National Rural Health Association
National Rural Housing Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Natural Capital Investment Fund, Inc.
New England Farmers Union
New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc. (NOFA-NY)
Paradox Community Trust
Partners for Rural America
PathStone Corporation
PCC Farmland Trust
Redwood Coast Rural Action
Rice University
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Rural Community Assistance Corporation
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
School Food FOCUS National Office
Sierra Business Council
Sustainable Northwest
The Carsey Institute
The Conservation Fund's Resourceful Communities Program
The REACH Healthcare Foundation
The Rural Resources Group
The Support Center
The Watershed Research and Training Center
TN Association of Utility Districts
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Wild Rose Pictures LC
Women, Food and Agriculture Network