Farm bill shuns rural development in Wyoming

Farm bill shuns rural development in Wyo

Nebraska think tank on rural affairs calls for more investment

Why does D.C. continue subsidies to the most wealthy?

A story from Wyoming News Service has us thinking a bit about the pending Farm Bill. The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska,  devotes much of its time thinking about federal rural policy and says Congress should invest more in rural America, including rural Wyoming. Here’s their assessment summary and recommendation: “Investment in rural development has fallen by nearly one-third since 2003. Action to reverse this decline is critical to creating and sustaining vibrant rural communities. The farm bill already includes a diverse set of rural development programs that serve a range of rural community needs. What we lack is significant investment in these programs. “What We Propose: In the next farm bill, commit at least $500 million over five years to a new Rural Community Renewal Fund. The fund would be allocated by the Secretary of Agriculture to existing rural development programs, with an emphasis on capturing emerging opportunities in areas such as broadband, renewable energy, food systems and ecotourism. Priority would be placed on communities suffering population loss, low median incomes, high poverty or sudden and severe job loss.” You can read more at the Center for Rural Affairs website. Meanwhile, here’s the transcript of the story from Wyoming News Service: (04/25/12) CASPER, Wyo. – A new Farm Bill being considered today by the Senate Agriculture Committee could bring big changes to Wyoming. The Center for Rural Affairs says the bill contains no money for rural development programs – such as micro-entrepreneur assistance, beginning-farmer initiatives and help for communities to upgrade water and sewer systems. Chuck Hassebrook, the center’s executive director, says it’s surprising to see that the bill expands farm program and crop insurance subsidies for the largest operations. “It does a good job of subsidizing the rich and powerful, but it does a poor of job of investing in the future of rural America and creating genuine opportunity for ordinary, rural folks.” The Ag committee is taking a look at amendments to the bill, and Hassebrook cites a proposal offered by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., which would limit subsidies for the richest farmers and ranchers. “I think if a husband and wife are making a million bucks a year, they probably don’t need a farm payment from the federal government. It would take the money that it saves and invest it in creating a better future in rural America for our kids and grandkids.” Rural development is funded through other programs outside the Farm Bill, which is one reason given by those who say it isn’t needed in the legislation. Farm-subsidy limits have long been debated, and Hassebrook expects another round as the bill is considered.

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