Investing in Rural America’s Future Print
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Monday, 31 October 2011 14:31

Rural development program has great potential for rural job creation nationally

Lyons, Nebraska -  A Center for Rural Affairs report released today examines USDA’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which was the only new rural development initiative to receive mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill, and the extent to which grant recipient organizations provide microenterprise development services on a national scale.

“Congress should reauthorize RMAP and continue mandatory funding,” said Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs Director of Rural Research and Analysis and author of the report. “RMAP has had barely a year to demonstrate its merit. Excluding it from the next Farm Bill would destroy a promising and needed strategy in its infancy.”

According to Bailey, RMAP is designed to provide funding to development organizations in the form of loans to relend to rural small businesses and grants to provide training and technical assistance to those small business borrowers or potential borrowers, with the goals to create jobs in and strengthen America’s rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency overseeing RMAP, has announced three rounds of RMAP grant awards (October 28, 2010, March 9, 2011, and June 30, 2011, and a total of 89 awards were made to the same number of entities representing all or parts of 39 states.

The Center for Rural Affairs report, which can be viewed in full or downloaded here -- http://files.cfra.org/pdf/rmap-2011.pdf -- also maps the location of all RMAP awardees and their service areas.

“The economic future of rural places will be done a disservice by the next Farm Bill if initiatives such as RMAP that create rural jobs and opportunities for economic growth are not afforded time to prove their long-term worth,” Bailey explained. “In the current budgetary climate, we know that Farm Bill funding faces serious cuts. But we have maintained for years that real reform of farm programs and crop insurance, with effective subsidy limits and closure of payment limit loopholes, can save money to be reinvested in initiatives like RMAP as well as deficit reduction.”

According to Bailey’s report, self-employment and small business is the core of the rural economy, and the real job creators in rural areas. For example, since 1969, the number of self-employed workers in rural areas has grown by over 240 percent (by comparison, rural wage and salary workers witnessed only a 61 percent growth over the same period). RMAP represents the largest ever expansion of rural microenterprise business development resources, an investment intended to tap into the obvious potential of rural entrepreneurial development.

Other key findings in Bailey’s report include:

  • the total service area population of the RMAP awardees is 115.1 million people, about 37 percent of the total population of the United States (based on the 2010 Census);
  • a total of 32.7 million rural residents in RMAP awardee service areas, about two-thirds of the total U.S. rural population;
  • 324 counties in RMAP service areas are also counties that have suffered high levels of outmigration and declining population.

“This is a rural development program that has demonstrated real potential for creating jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities across the country, and even in the current budgetary climate, is a worthy investment in America’s future,” concluded Bailey.