Subcommittee Examines How Funds Are Targeted for USDA's Rural Development Programs

Feb 15, 2011

Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture held a public hearing to review the various definitions of rural applied under programs operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The definition of rural plays a key role in targeting scarce federal dollars to communities most in need. The 2008 farm bill made several changes to these definitions to ensure that funds are not used in and around urban areas. The 2008 farm bill also directed the Secretary of Agriculture to submit, within two years of passage of the bill, a report on various definitions of rural used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in providing assistance. The report, which has not been completed, is to assess the impact these various definitions have on the delivery of rural development programs.

"Members of this Subcommittee understand that assisting small, rural communities carries with it many challenges, not least of which is ensuring that the limited funds available are targeting only rural communities and are not being diverted to urban areas. We appreciate USDA’s commitment to bringing assistance to rural areas, but there are still concerns that the responsibilities laid out by Congress in the 2008 farm bill are not being met. We will continue to work with USDA to ensure that funds are being used in the most effective way," said Chairman Timothy V. Johnson.

"The multiple and varying definitions of rural has a significant effect on many rural communities both in my district and across the country. Many areas that may be considered rural by most any other definition are not defined as rural and struggle to finance essential infrastructure projects that rural development programs are supposed to target. As we grapple with this issue, I hope Congress and the Administration can work together on a bipartisan basis to come up with a better definition to help our rural areas maximize the use of our resources," Ranking Member Jim Costa said.

Written testimony provided by the witnesses is available below and can be found on the Committee's website by clicking here.

Witness List:

Panel I

Ms. Cheryl Cook, Deputy Under Secretary, Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Panel II

The Honorable Don Larson, Commissioner, Brookings County, South Dakota, Brookings County Commission Office, Brookings, SD

Dr. Timothy Collins, Assistant Director, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL

Mr. Charles W. Fluharty, President and CEO, Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), Columbia, MO

Mr. Mike Dozier, Director, Office of Community and Economic Development, California State University, Fresno, CA