The Center for Rural Affairs has joined more than 185 leaders and rural organizations from across the nation in signing and sending a letter sent to every U.S. Senator expressing support for federal investment in rural development in the Farm Bill currently being debated on the floor of the Senate.
The letter states that one of the proven job-creating titles of the farm bill is the Rural Development title, which authorizes essential grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur growth and opportunity in small towns and rural areas.
"If passed as it now stands, this will be the first farm bill in decades to provide no funding for small town and rural development. Rural development has already been cut by one-third since 2003, mostly by the annual appropriations process through which Congress divides up the budget," said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. "But passing a farm bill with no funding for job creating and community building rural development programs deepens that cut."
The Center for Rural Affairs and other signatories on the letter urged Senators to correct this deficiency by providing robust funding for the following successful Rural Development programs: Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, Rural Energy Savings Program, and Rural Water and Wastewater Treatment Backlog.
"This letter demonstrates strong support for programs that create jobs and assist beginning farmers, small businesses and small towns across rural America," added Hassebrook.
The signatories also urged investment in the future of American agriculture. Specifically, the letter noted that, "The average age of an American agricultural producer today is 57, and if we let current trends go unchecked, that number will only increase. Providing training and technical assistance to the next generation of farmers can help buck the trend and ensure future food security."
However, according to the letter, the Farm Bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee falls far short of maintaining current investment in the training tools that new and diverse farmers need to succeed.
"And that is why we are urging Senators to provide robust mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and Outreach for Socially Disadvantaged and Minority Producers, Hassebrook explained.
The complete letter, including signatories is available here: http://files.cfra.org/pdf/Support-Letter-Brown-Amendment.pd