The Rural Development Title of the 2007 Farm Bill should be based upon and should focus on two themes: entrepreneurial development in rural areas and strategies to build assets and wealth for rural people and in rural communities. Both strategies address the persistent, deep-rooted poverty present in many rural parts of the nation and the growing economic disparity between rural and urban areas of the nation. And both strategies address the issues of how to repopulate rural areas and the how to ensure the long-term future of rural America.
There is a developing broad agreement among researchers, policy advocates and others that the traditional economic development models of industrial and business recruitment simply do not meet the needs of rural communities. Entrepreneurship has been lifted up as an economic development model that will better serve rural people and rural places. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City states that, “Rural policymakers, who once followed traditional strategies of recruiting manufacturers that export low-value products, have realized that entrepreneurs can generate new economic value for their communities. Entrepreneurs add jobs, raise incomes, create wealth, improve the quality of life of citizens and help rural communities operate in the global economy1.” Federal rural policy must begin to recognize the importance of entrepreneurship as a rural development strategy and provide the resources necessary for rural people and rural communities to leverage the spirit, creativity and opportunities entrepreneurship creates.
Asset- and wealth-building strategies are equally important. Greater income alone cannot lead to economic well-being for individuals and families; asset- and wealth-building through home ownership, business ownership or enhanced education lead to important long-term psychological and social effects that cannot be achieved by simply increasing income. While income is an important factor, income can be achieved nearly anywhere in varying degrees. Assets like businesses and houses bond one to a place and help to build sustainable communities. A commitment to rural asset- and wealth-building strategies can lead to stronger individuals, families and communities.
Agriculturally-based entrepreneurship and innovation must also continue to play a vital role in rural development policy. Agriculturally-based entrepreneurship can contribute to the creation of jobs and businesses in rural communities and to the alleviation of poverty in the same communities. Programs that promote a new generation of farmers and ranchers and which provide incentives for entry into agriculture also benefit the development of rural communities and their institutions. Beginning farmer and rancher programs also provide opportunities for the advancement of agriculturally-based enterprises among a new generation of rural entrepreneurs.
Download the entire proposal below. A one page white paper title "Why Entrepreneurship in the Farm Bill?" is also available below.