Rural Development in the 2018 Farm Bill

Today, the US Senate continues to debate the 2018 Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The Farm Bill is a big deal, setting policies in myriad areas from food stamps to nutrition programs to commodity payments.   The Farm Bill typically provides authorization for various rural development programs, although this important piece of the debate rarely generates much attention.  I hope to see this change in 2018.  I’m especially intrigued with a new proposal from Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) known as the Rural Jobs and Investment Act.  This bill, and an expected related amendment to the Farm Bill, supports a smart expansion of current rural development efforts.  Among other things, it creates a new RISE (Rural Innovation Stronger Economy) program at USDA to further incentivize partnerships that support innovation-driven economic development in rural areas, and to allow USDA investments in incubators, accelerators, and maker spaces. It also tweaks current rules to help encourage the development of new equity investment pools focused on rural America.  This amendment should be offered for consideration during the Farm Bill debate.   Its passage should be good news for entrepreneurs across rural America.