In case you hadn't heard, we are currently operating without a Farm Bill. It expired at the end of October, and Congress didn't get their act together to pass a new one before the recess. While provisions were made to keep many commodity programs up and running, many programs supporting small farmers, conservation, local foods and rural development have been left without funding, or without the authority to use the funding they do have.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has been running a series of blog posts that show the impact that the shuttering of these programs has. Their latest post features an Appalachian business that was helped by the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), a program that helps small, rural businesses improve and expand – and which is currently on hold until we get a new Farm Bill. From the blog post:
Eight years ago Wayne Patrick was operating Science Hill Tool Works out of a 1,000 square foot, three-car garage. Science Hill Tool Works provides tools to and manufactures replacement parts for businesses in the area. As the company grew, Wayne relied on Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC) not only as a lender, but also for business support and guidance. KHIC helped him consolidate his business and provided valuable business advice.
With the support of funding from the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), KHIC’s microloan program allowed Wayne’s business to expand from that 1,000 square foot garage to a 30,000 square foot facility. Science Hill Tool Works has also been able to hire seven additional employees. Along with financing, the staff at KHIC provides financial counseling and business support to Wayne and other microloan recipients. Says Wayne of KHIC, “it’s hard to put into words everything [they] taught me.”
RMAP and other programs in the Local Food Systems and Rural Development title of the Farm Bill – including Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Business Entrepreneur Grants, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and many others – have been important in developing Appalachia's local food economy and in supporting our local businesses. Now that the election is over, let's hope that Congress can get back to work crafting a Farm Bill that works for Appalachia and the rest of rural America.