Lyons, Nebraska – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun final implementation of a $13 million investment in rural America's economic recovery. USDA Rural Development is poised to roll out the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. A new program, it will make grants to organizations that provide training, technical assistance or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
"This is a good investment and the right concept to help rural entrepreneurs and their communities contribute to America's economic recovery," says Steph Larsen of the Center for Rural Affairs.
The Rural Micro program, Larsen says, capitalizes on the fact that most new rural jobs are created in firms with fewer than 10 employees by focusing resources on businesses of that size. The USDA has published an interim rule that establishes the ground rules for how the new program will operate.
"A $13 million investment in rural entrepreneurial development will make a difference in rural communities across the nation, but the program has been painfully slow in coming, and it is crucial that this investment find its way to our rural mainstreets before we begin to lose it," Larsen says.
The rule can be viewed or downloaded from the Federal Register’s website and the USDA has indicated that the Notice of Funds Available will also be released in short order, calling for applications to the program, Larsen says.
While the program may need some improvements, "we're cautiously optimistic that this rule and the soon-to-be-release notice of funding will serve to get this program on its feet and get that $13 million investment into the countryside where it can do some good," Larsen says.
The Center for Rural Affairs continues to monitor the implementation of the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and share information with interested individuals and organizations through the Renew Rural America webpages and through periodic e-mail updates. Sign up by contacting Larsen at StephL@cfra.org.
"There is a 60-day comment period and we will be making significant comments and encouraging others to do the same," Larsen says. "And we will continue to help rural entrepreneurial development organizations across the country learn about this program and make their applications for funding."
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation. Formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, the Center for Rural Affairs works to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.