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Rural Development Highlighted by USDA

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By Dennis Mclaughlin | Nov 1, 2006

Learn the latest from the USDA briefing on rural development.

It’s an established trend — Americans are moving beyond the ‘burbs’ to rural areas. But it’s not fatter paychecks they’re chasing. While rural population overall has grown since 2000, incomes have lagged — rural dwellers make around three-fourths the income of their metropolitan counterparts.

For one in five rural counties, farming is the primary source of livelihood for its residents. Elsewhere, rural manufacturing employment has dropped, although the decline seems to have stabilized. Only in rural recreation counties with lakes, beaches and mountains, has there been rapid growth in employment and income.

It will come as no surprise to Grit readers that people migrating to rural America are seeking something different — like more space to do the things they value in life. Many are small-farm oriented and put a lot of stock into sustainable living. It remains to be seen, however, how many of these folks will cherish their relative isolation when they discover they’re not wired to the Internet.

These observations and concerns were highlighted in a USDA brief presenting its perspective on rural development in preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill 2007 debate. The USDA is focusing on:

  • Targeting rural development programs to areas with the greatest need. For example, Rural Utility Service loans are not targeted according to need and do not always go to rural areas. Likewise, low-interest loans for rural high-speed Internet services have detoured away from some communities because they can’t get the service without government assistance.
  • Encouraging new non-farm business formation with rural private investment. The USDA would facilitate alliances between entrepreneurs and rural communities, banks and rural and non-rural individual investors.
  • Continuing the move toward regionalized assistance. The concept has already been initiated with the creation of programs like the Delta Regional Authority to fund projects in the lower Mississippi Delta region based on priorities determined by states.

Source: Center for Rural Affairs

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