The irony abounds. Residents in rural areas voted overwhelmingly for George Bush. Their rewardâ€”across the board cuts of money previously allocated for rural development and agriculture programs.
The Center for Rural Affairs reports that rural America may loose more than one-third of the federal dollars currently allocated to rural economic and rural community development. This is in addition to significant cuts to direct farmer aid including a 50% slashing of the Conservation Security Program and an across-the-board reduction of five percent for all farm program payments.
Read the Action Brief (pdf here) from the Center for Rural Affairs or catch the highlights below the fold.
From the Action Brief
Less Rural Economic and Community Development
Rural America will lose more than one-third of its federal resources for rural economic and community development.
The result would be 1) a shifting of rural economic and community development costs to state and local resources, including an increased property tax burden in many places, and/or 2) rural communities left without the resources for vital projects modernizing their infrastructure, developing their economies for the 21st century, and enhancing their quality-of-life.
Fewer Jobs and Businesses
The Presidentâ€™s budget proposes to eliminate programs that create jobs and businesses for rural America. The Small Business Administration programs that provide capital and technical assistance for microbusinesses are a major source of businesses and jobs in rural communities.
Bush’s budget reduces key parts of the Small Business Administration’s Microenterprise Development program to zero.
Less Participatory Community Development in Rural America
One hallmark of the CDBG program was the requirement for public hearings and public input on community and economic development projects for which funding was sought. That may be lost under the proposed â€œStrengthening Americaâ€™s Communities Initiative,â€ which would provide funding only to communities meeting specified criteria with no apparent requirement for public involvement.
Less Asset-Building in Rural America
The Presidentâ€™s budget provides for greater resources for several rural housing programs within USDA, particularly loan programs. However, what the budget gives with one hand, it takes with the other â€“ it proposes to eliminate other rural housing programs and programs that provide resources for rural community-based organizations that develop and construct housing.
What Can I Do?
The Congressional Appropriations and Budget Committees will begin action soon, and the Presidentâ€™s budget will be the starting point for their deliberations.
You can do the following to make the case for funding rural development and rural asset-building programs.
Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative and educate them on the benefits of federal rural development and rural asset-building programs for your community and your state.
Write letters to your local newspapers about federal rural development and rural asset-building programs and their benefits to your community and all rural communities.
Speak to local Chambers of Commerce and business associations, local service clubs, and other local groups about federal rural development and rural asset-building programs and their benefits to your community and all rural communities.
Contact local economic development and community development groups and organizations and ask them to oppose decreased funding for federal rural development and rural asset-building programs and communicate that support to your U.S. Senators and Representative.
Contact your Governor and ask him or her to oppose decreased funding for federal rural development and asset-building programs and to communicate that support to Congress.
If you live in a metro area, contact rural people you know for examples of how federal rural development and rural asset-building programs benefit rural communities and then contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives.
In all your efforts use local examples of how federal rural development and rural asset-building programs have benefited individuals, families and communities in your area.
With this proposed budget Republicans have opened another door for Democrats in rural areas. Will they take the opportunity?