Don’t Count Out Rural America

Every census in recent memory reported that rural America is losing population and urban America is growing. At the Center for Rural Affairs, however, we view these trends differently than others. We see stern challenges facing rural communities, but, we know there is something to be done about it.
Federal contributions to rural development have been plummeting for years – almost one-third of the USDA Rural Development budget has been cut since 2003. And Congress is considering making even further cuts to already bare-bones rural development programs.

In 2007, we demonstrated that USDA and Congress have spent twice as much on subsidizing the twenty largest farms in each of thirteen leading farm states as they invested in rural development programs to create economic opportunity for millions of people in thousands of towns in the twenty rural counties with the most out-migration in each respective state.

To reverse this trend, we propose a Rural Renewal Initiative for the next farm bill, asking Congress to commit $500 million over five years to a Community Prosperity Fund to be invested in existing rural development programs.

This investment could be fully paid for by tightening the limits on farm payments received by the nation’s largest farms. Though $100 million dollars annually is a small fraction of farm bill spending, it would breathe new life into rural America and help rural entrepreneurs create jobs where new opportunities are arising -- local and regional food systems, renewable energy and ecotourism, just to name a few.

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