September 23, 2010
On Thursday, September 23, NSAC and 56 other organizations delivered a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concern over USDA’s Interim Final Rule for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program (RMAP). The letter was organized by the Center for Rural Affairs.
Interim rules for RMAP were published to the Federal Register on May 28, 2010. While USDA closed the public comment period on July 27, 2010, it has not yet released a final rule for the Program.
The letter demonstrates that concern with the the interim final rule is widely shared amongst rural development, sustainable agriculture, and food systems organizations. The organizations are particularly unhappy with the borrowing terms laid out in the rule and the narrow scope of the technical assistance provision. These and other barriers and disincentives have discouraged many microenterprise development organizations from applying for RMAP funding.
In the letter, the signatory organizations make the following recommendations in order to more fully realize the potential of this program:
“The failure of the rule to provide support for business training reflects a misunderstanding of the needs of microentrepreneurs and grossly undervalues human capital development,” the letter states. “Without business skills and technical assistance, borrowers who receive RMAP loans would have great difficulty repaying.”
NSAC will continue to encourage USDA to comply with the intent of Congress by improving RMAP loan terms and increasing support for training and technical assistance.