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Published July 10, 2012, 01:34 PM

Efforts to restore funding for rural development in Farm Bill

Concerns are being raised on a number of fronts as the U.S. House Agriculture Committee begins deliberations on its version of the national Farm Bill on Wednesday.

By: John Michaelson, Minnesota News Connection, Morris Sun Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Concerns are being raised on a number of fronts as the U.S. House Agriculture Committee begins deliberations on its version of the national Farm Bill on Wednesday. Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, says he's troubled by the bill's lack of funding for rural development.

"That's particularly for small-business development and beginning-farmer programs. (They) either receive zero funding or take deep cuts, so we believe it's just essential that this Farm Bill do a better job of investing in our future."

Hassebrook says the House Farm Bill cuts in half the funding for the beginning-farmer and rancher-development program, and it provides zero funding for the rural micro-enterprise assistance program, which helps rural businesses with 10 workers or less.

The cost of these rural-development programs, says Hassebrook, is just a fraction of total Farm Bill spending, and he says there are simple ways to fund them, such as cutting subsidies to the wealthiest farmers.

"There was an amendment passed in the Senate that simply reduced the crop-insurance subsidies by 15 percent for people that make more than $750,000 a year, and that alone would save several times what these rural-development and beginning-farmer cuts save."

Hassebrook also notes that it's not just rural Minnesota that should be paying close attention to the Farm Bill, because what's good for Todd or Traverse counties is also good for the Twin Cities.

"Because if rural Minnesota prospers, then they contribute to the entire state's prosperity. They pay more taxes. They do more business. We operate as states out here. What happens to one part of the state affects the other part of the state and so we all have a stake in a healthy rural Minnesota."

The U.S. Senate passed its own substantially-different version of the Farm Bill last month.

More information is at agriculture.house.gov.

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