Center advocates for program funding through appropriations process

Farm and Food
Small Business
Small Towns

The Center for Rural Affairs recently shared program funding recommendations with members of Congress as part of the annual appropriations process. Federal legislators consider these recommendations as they allocate discretionary dollars to a variety of programs, including those that support rural communities.

Specifically, the Center asked Congress to support programs that assist rural microbusinesses, working lands conservation, and agricultural producers, including beginning and socially disadvantaged producers.

The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) remains a top priority for the Center. In addition to submitting an appropriations request on behalf of the organization, Center staff led a national effort to garner support for increased funding. Through RMAP, direct loans and grants are provided to Microentrepreneur Development Organizations, who then offer technical services and distribute microloans of $50,000 or less to rural microentrepreneurs. This program has been a lifeline to small rural businesses nationwide, as it bridges the gap in training and capital available to these individuals.

Aside from RMAP, the Center requested an increase in funding for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA). Through CTA, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff work one on one with producers to develop and implement personalized conservation plans for farms and ranches. CTA funds are also used to assess conservation practices and systems, and to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on the condition of our nation’s natural resources. This support has proven to be a crucial element of working lands conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

The Center continues to advocate for programs that strengthen local food chains and support underserved producers, such as the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and Farming Opportunities, Training and Outreach (FOTO). LAMP includes the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP). VAPG helps farmers and ranchers invest in business models that keep the processing of raw agricultural products close to home. FMLFPP funds marketing grants that support the infrastructure needed to market local and regional foods.

Under FOTO, beginning and socially disadvantaged producers are served through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers program. Both programs provide third party entities with grants for education, outreach, and technical assistance to these producers, and improved access to USDA programs.
Funding amounts requested by the Center for 2023 include: 

  • Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program: $8 million
  • Conservation Technical Assistance: $1.1 billion 
  • Farming Opportunities, Training and Outreach: $5 million
  • Local Agriculture Market Program: $20 million, split appropriately between the Value Added Producer Grant program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program

Click here to read the full letter sent to members of Congress.