WASHINGTON, June 7, 2012- More than 185 leaders and rural organizations from across the nation sent a letter to every U.S. Senator Wednesday 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 grants and loan programs targeted at leveraging local initiatives to spur economic growth in small towns and rural areas.
The letter, signed by a large coalition of organizations including the National Association of Counties, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Farmers Union, states that the Farm Bill “fails to make adequate investment in rural economic development.”
“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 Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook. “But passing a farm bill with no funding for job creating and community building rural development programs deepens that cut.”
The letter states, “We urge you 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 Water/Wastewater Backlog.”
The signatories also urged more investment in beginning farmer programs. 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.
“We urge you to provide robust mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501),” the letter concludes.
The complete letter is available here.
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