Monday, March 31, 2008

Rural Development programs would get no new money under latest budget framework for Farm Bill

"The latest budget framework released on March 25 for the 2008 Farm Bill provides zero new resources for community and economic development in rural America," writes Matthew D. Chase, executive director of the National Association of Development Organizations. "Out of the more than 10 titles of the Farm Bill, Rural Development is the most prominent issue area provided a big, fat goose egg."

Chase calls that "an ominous strategic mistake . . . at the worst possible time, as the United States is now falling further behind our global competitors in investing in the fundamental building blocks for sustainable economic growth and competitiveness – community and physical infrastructure." USDA Rural Development programs already have a project backlog of more than $2 billion, Chase writes.

Passage of a Farm Bill has been complicated by the Bush administration's threat to veto any measure above a certain price tag, putting Rural Development in competition with commodity, nutrition and conservation programs. "Rural Development in the Farm Bill context shouldn’t be viewed as a competitor, but as a complementary component," Chase writes. "The agricultural sector is a primary beneficiary of just about every investment made by USDA Rural Development, whether related to improved water and water treatment facilities, improved housing options for workers, more affordable access to business financing, assistance for value-added production marketing or cheaper and reliable services from rural electric and
telephone cooperatives." (Read more)

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