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Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Overview of USDA Rural Development Programs

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

More than 88 programs administered by 16 different federal agencies target rural economic development. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the greatest number of rural development programs and has the highest average of program funds going directly to rural counties (approximately 50%). The Rural Development Policy Act of 1980 also designated USDA as the lead federal agency for rural development. The Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agricultural Reorganization Act of 1994 created the Office of the Undersecretary for Rural Development and consolidated the rural development portfolio into four principal agencies responsible for USDA’s mission area: the Rural Housing Service, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Office of Community Development.

In the 112
th Congress, the Senate farm bill (S. 3240) would have restructured the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (ConAct), a principle statute authorizing many of the loan and grant programs administered by USDA Rural Development. Among other changes, the bill would have consolidated several business loan and grant programs into a single business support platform. The bill would also have eliminated the Rural Collaborative Investment Program, Historic Barn Preservation, Rural Telework, and the National Rural Development Partnership. The bill also would have prioritized projects that support strategic economic and community development, involve multijurisdictional planning, have investment from other federal agencies, and have strategic plans developed through broad-based community planning involving multiple stakeholders. The House farm bill (H.R. 6083) in the 112th Congress would have reauthorized most programs, making only minor changes to certain programs.

An extension of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) provides discretionary funding for rural development programs through the FY2013 fiscal year at FY2012 levels, minus sequestration and rescissions. Congress is likely to take up drafting a new farm bill in summer 2013.

This report provides an overview of the various programs administered by the four USDA agencies, their authorizing legislation, program objectives, eligibility criteria, and FY2005- FY2013 funding for each program. A continuing resolution for FY2013 was enacted in March 2013 and provides funding at the FY2012 level (minus sequestration and two rescissions). The report will be updated as new USDA Rural Development programs are implemented or amended.

Date of Report: May 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 42
Order Number: RL31837
Price: $29.95

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