May 18, 2015
On Thursday, May 14, the Campaign for a Renewed Rural Development (CRRD) — a coalition of organizations that works to advance rural development — delivered a letter urging the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees to support key rural development programs during the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations process. The letter urges appropriators to protect and enhance funding for the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) program, and Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), among others.
The House and Senate Subcommittees are in the process of writing their draft appropriations bills for FY 2016. They are expected to release and debate those bills next month.
“Federal investments in rural business creation, infrastructure, and housing programs spur private sector job creation and lead to increased economic activity,” the letter states. “As the Subcommittees develop FY 2016 appropriations bills, we urge you to strengthen funding for these vital programs and the public goods they support.”
In addition to housing and infrastructure programs, the letter also highlights business development programs, including:
Value-Added Producer Grants Program
Request in letter: $15 million in discretionary funding and no Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS)
What the program does: When farmers and rural entrepreneurs take raw agricultural products like vegetables or grains and turn them into a line of value-added products such as sauces or flour, they not only improve their income, but also contribute to community and rural economic development and enhance food choices for consumers. The VAPG program provides competitively awarded grants to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives to create or develop value-added producer-owned businesses. These grants may be used to fund business and marketing plans and feasibility studies or to acquire working capital to operate a value-added business venture or alliance.
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas
Request in letter: $2.5 million in discretionary funding
What the program does: Learning to farm is hard enough, but learning to farm sustainably is often very knowledge intensive and requires more hands-on management. Thankfully, there is an online resource available to farmers, extension agents, and other professionals that provides access to free information and research on a range of sustainable agriculture topics — everything from how to manage an organic orchard to how to manage risk on a diversified farming operation. For almost 30 years, ATTRA has been providing farmers, ranchers and others involved in sustainable agriculture with valuable information and resources that address key challenges they are facing on their farms. Millions of individuals visit the ATTRA website and attend ATTRA trainings each year.
Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
Request in letter: $2.65 million for loans, $2 million for grants, and no CHIMPS
What the program does: Very small businesses are the lifeblood of rural America, yet small entrepreneurs often struggle to access credit and business training. Fortunately, RMAP helps address this gap. The program provides loans and grants to non-profit organizations, community-based financial institutions, and local economic development councils, which in turn provide technical services and microloans to owners of very small businesses in their states and local communities.
The CRRD letter was delivered by the following organizations:
American Public Works Association
Catholic Rural Life
Center for Rural Affairs
Fair Food Network
Farm Credit Council
National Association of Counties (NACo)
National Association of Development Organizations (NADO)
National Association of RC&D Councils
National Association of Towns and Townships
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association
Rural Community Assistance Partnership
State Agriculture and Rural Leaders