Monday, August 13, 2007

Bread for the World Update: Support Rural Communities

A message from Bread for the World...
It’s been said that the US farm bill should actually be named the “rural development bill” because it provides much of the federal support for rural areas. As the 2007 farm bill takes shape in Congress, Bread for the World is calling for broad reform. A key component of our Offering of Letters campaign is to strengthen rural communities.

The farm bill originated during the Great Depression to help people in rural areas. Today, the goal remains the same, but the rural landscape has changed dramatically. In the 1930’s, nearly 25% of the US population worked in agriculture. Now, less than 2% of all Americans work on farms, and most rural jobs are in service industries. So commodity payment programs- a major component to the farm bill- cannot be a substitute for wider rural development efforts. To remain true to its original intent, the farm bill needs to expand its programs to support rural America in its reality today.

Hunger and poverty are more common in rural areas, and many rural counties have lost population as people move away for better jobs and services. Mines, factories and big box stores open and close contributing to “boom and bust” cycles. To break this cycle, it’s essential to promote entrepreneurship and strengthen infrastructure. In the past, funds authorized for rural water quality, firefighters and other vital services have been meager and sometimes non-existent.

There’s no quick solution for rural challenges. But many strategies show promise- from increasing entrepreneurship and attracting a diverse business base to improving access to technology. Previously, rural development programs have generally been small and low priority. Bread for the World is urging Congress to give rural development greater visibility and more resources. Only then, will more rural communities be able to find solutions that work.

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