When rural communities succeed, the nation as a whole does better. This includes agriculture, manufacturing, service sector, and other avenues of business for rural America.
Conversely, without rural economic and social development, the consequences will spread well beyond our rural communities. So we take alarm when the current economic recession exacerbates depopulation and further sinks family income in rural America.
Small-scale entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in rural communities. Over half of all new jobs created in the most rural areas come from small, non-farm business ventures.
Rural development programs targeted at small business development have contributed to this job creation in rural areas. However, despite being a key part of proven job-creation strategies, these programs have experienced disproportionate cuts for over a decade.
The 2012 Farm Bill should invest in rural small-business development by:
- Providing flexibility and incentives for regional collaboration to leverage limited resources.
- Strategically streamlining USDA Rural Development (RD) programs.
- Launching a Rural Community Prosperity Fund with mandatory funding to support entrepreneurial activities through existing RD programs.
- Funding the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program to provide training, technical assistance, and microcredit for small businesses in rural areas.
- Opening new market opportunities for farmers by directly funding Value-Added Producer Grants.
Why It Matters
- Public investments will ensure rural entrepreneurs gain access to important seed capital, enterprise financing, and technical assistance.
- Investments in small business development drive economic growth in rural communities.
- Economic growth will help buck depopulation and declining income trends in rural America and revitalize communities.
If the fiscal needs of our nation’s rural communities are not addressed in the next Farm Bill, we believe they will not be addressed at all by Congress. For both the Senate and the House, it is the respective Agriculture Committee’s authority, jurisdiction, and responsibility to address rural economic development.
National Rural Assembly
NCRLC is an active participant of the National Rural Assembly
-- a movement of people and organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America for children, families, and communities. Participants include more than 500 local, regional, and national organizations from around the nation.
The goal of the National Rural Assembly is to make the country stronger by improving the outlook for rural communities. The guiding principle is that an inclusive, prospering, and sustainable rural America improves prospects for us all.
To this end, NCRLC advocates for these public policies:
Investment in Communities
To fight poverty, create wealth, and build sustainable communities, everyone in America needs access to a safe and equitable system for saving, borrowing, and building capital. To fully participate in and contribute to the American economy, rural communities need public and private investment, access to philanthropic resources, and the tools to develop their own community-controlled assets.
Health of Rural Families
All people in America deserve access to good, affordable healthcare. If we want small towns and rural communities to contribute to the well-being of the nation, we need rural healthcare systems that work. These should include preventive care, health education, and both community-based and high-tech delivery systems.
Stewardship of Natural Resources
Eighty percent of our country’s land is rural. It is a heritage and a trust. We all have a responsibility to protect the environment and develop and sustain our natural resources in ways that strengthen rural communities for the long haul. Good environmental practices and responsive public land management provide the opportunity to promote energy independence, grow healthy food in a sustainable manner, mitigate climate change, and develop stronger natural-resource-based economies.
Quality in Education
Every child should have an equal chance to learn, excel, and help lead America to a better, brighter future. Education policy should recognize the distinctive challenges and opportunities for rural schools and reflect the unique needs of those students, families, and educators.