2012 Farm Bill: Rural Community Renewal Fund

We have begun crafting a series of proposals for the 2012 farm bill. Starting this month with ideas for a Rural Community Renewal Fund, we’re kicking off a series to share our ideas. Please send us your ideas too – rural people have much at stake in the upcoming debate.

Investment in rural development has fallen by nearly one-third since 2003. Action to reverse this decline is critical to creating and sustaining vibrant rural communities. The farm bill already includes a diverse set of rural development programs that serve a range of rural community needs. What we lack is significant investment in these programs.

What We Propose: In the next farm bill, commit at least $500 million over five years to a new Rural Community Renewal Fund. The fund would be allocated by the Secretary of Agriculture to existing rural development programs, with an emphasis on capturing emerging opportunities in areas such as broadband, renewable energy, food systems and ecotourism. Priority would be placed on communities suffering population loss, low median incomes, high poverty or sudden and severe job loss.

A portion of the fund would be reserved to support each of the following areas:

  • Rural Entrepreneurship through support for the Value Added Producer Grants Program, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, and additional loan and grant programs that support the start-up and development of small enterprises.
  • Strengthen Communities through support for the Rural Community Development Initiative, the Community Facilities Programs and other community infrastructure and development programs that build the capacity of small communities.

Our proposal to commit $100 million per year to rural development represents less than one-half of one percent of farm spending allocated by the farm bill and one-sixth of one percent of total funding allocated by the farm bill. That amount of funding can be found within the existing pool of farm bill funding.

Though $100 million dollars per year is small in the context of all spending allocated by the farm bill, it would represent a significant increase in funding to build and maintain vibrant rural communities.

Send questions, comments and feedback to Brian Depew, briand@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1015.