Rural Policy in 2007 — Building New Alliances on Rural Issues

In 2007 the Center led the fight for farm program payment limits reform, arguing that farm program money is better spent supporting beginning farmers, protecting our natural resources, and encouraging rural small business development. Support for rural small business development became one linchpin of our argument. It was not the only thing we fought for, but it was an issue that many new allies coalesced around.

Many agriculturally-based rural communities have suffered a precipitous loss of small businesses that serve their communities. Small businesses are vital to their future success. They are our grocery stores, hardware stores, local retail, and local service businesses. When we work to strengthen these businesses, all of rural America benefits.

Building on our own success promoting rural microenterprise through the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Program, we championed a rural microenterprise assistance program as a part of the 2007 farm bill. We were successful in getting the program authorized in both the House and the Senate, and the Senate bill provides mandatory money for the program. While the fight to fully fund the program is likely to go on beyond the end of the farm bill debate, we have gained more support this year for rural microenterprise in the farm bill than under any previous farm bill.

New and old allies alike joined us in support of the rural microenterprise program. Some of these groups were new to the farm bill debate, and the breadth of support for the program demonstrates that this legislation can help make the farm bill about all of rural America.

One group, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, made support for the program a major priority. Working with the Center, their efforts brought farm bill support for rural microenterprise to the attention of rural development organizations and contributed to the legislative campaign. Nearly 100 organizations, including some of the largest and most influential local and regional economic development organizations in the nation, joined with the Center in signing a letter supporting inclusion of the program in the farm bill.

Throughout the farm bill debate we stood on principled ground and voiced support for policy that will truly support family farming, rural communities, and our natural environment. Even without winning every fight, we advanced policy in the interest of rural communities across all of rural America.

Contact: Brian Depew, briand@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1015 for more information.

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