RL34126 - Rural Development Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill
16-Jan-2009; Tadlock Cowan; 23 p.
Update: Previous releases:
September 18, 2008
January 3, 2008
August 10, 2007
Abstract: Congress has expressed its concern with rural communities most directly through periodic omnibus farm bill legislation, most recently in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246). Congress uses periodic farm bills to address emerging rural issues as well as to reauthorize and/or amend a wide range of rural programs administered by USDA’s three rural development mission agencies: Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Rural Utilities Service.
Title VI addresses a wide range of policy issues concerning rural America. In the 2002 farm bill, these issues included provisions such as equity capital development in rural areas, regional economic planning and development, essential community facilities, infrastructure needs, value-added agricultural development, and broadband telecommunications development. The 2008 farm bill considers similar issues and addresses several new ones. The new farm bill expands broadband access in rural areas, creates a new micro-entrepreneurial assistance program and a new rural collaborative investment program, and authorizes three new regional economic development commissions. The bill also authorizes $120 million for a one-time funding of pending water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
Several programs authorized with mandatory spending in the 2002 farm bill are reauthorized with discretionary funding in the new farm bill (Rural Firefighters and Emergency Personnel, Rural Strategic Investment Program, Rural Business Investment Program, and the Access to Broadband Services in Rural Areas). The Value-Added Grants Program, similarly authorized in the 2002 farm bill, is also reauthorized by P.L. 110-246 with $15 million of mandatory funding and $40 million of discretionary funding. A side-by-side comparison of House- and Senate-passed provisions and the 2002 and 2008 farm bills is provided at the end of the report in the Appendix.
The 2008 farm bill also modifies the 2002 definition of “rural” to include “areas rural in character.” This modification in the definition of “rural” establishes criteria for defining rural areas contiguous to urban areas. The bill further directs the Secretary of Agriculture to produce a report within two years on the various definitions of “rural” used by USDA in providing assistance. The report will also assess the impacts these various definitions have on the delivery of rural development programs with the objective of better targeting assistance where it is most needed.
The 2008 farm bill also reauthorizes and/or amends through FY2012 many longstanding programs funded through annual appropriations — water and waste disposal grants, technical assistance for rural water systems, emergency community water assistance, business opportunity grants, water assistance to Native villages in Alaska, community facilities for Tribal colleges, distance learning and telemedicince.
This report will be updated.