USDA Listening for Rural Development Ideas

USDA Rural Development will host a video conference from 10:00 a.m. to noon (CST) on January 8th at eight sites across Nebraska.
We encourage Nebraskans to share your ideas for creating rural jobs and fostering rural development. For more information on roundtable locations and agenda go to - http://www.cfra.org/node/2421 .

Self-employment is the backbone of rural America. Small businesses are economic building blocks that can help rebuild our economy, provide immediate economic stimulus and plant the seeds of rural revitalization. During the recession earlier this decade, employment fell among large employers but grew among small businesses.

The 2008 farm bill created the new Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to fund training, technical assistance and loans to rural small businesses. But the farm bill woefully underfunded it at $4 million for the entire country.

Congress responded to a White House request for $26 million, providing up to $13 million for the first year and $9 million for the second. These investments should focus on rural entrepreneurs' greatest needs - business planning, mentoring, financial packaging and other technical assistance and training - not just lending.

USDA draft rules for the Rural Microentrepreneur program got that point wrong, focusing too much on lending. In our view, USDA should make building rural microenterprise capacity a priority, especially in the program's first year and particularly in states that are currently underserved by rural organizations that focus on entrepreneurial development. We'll be sharing that and more at USDA's roundtables, and hope you'll share your ideas as well.

(You can see the location of forums in other states at: http://www.cfra.org/state-jobs-roundtables .)

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