The Farm Bill’s Title VI: Rural Development addresses rural community and economic development through a variety of USDA programs, “from connecting rural communities to broadband Internet to providing . . . financing for rural small businesses”[1] These programs “support investments in the rural economy through grants, loans and loan guarantees with an emphasis on essential infrastructure, small business development, job creation, and growth.”[2]

One important component of the Rural Development Title is investment in community infrastructure. The 2014 Farm Bill provided $150 million for water and wastewater infrastructure, including funds to finance about one fifth of the pending queue of completed applications for Waste and Water Disposal projects in rural communities.[1] The bill also promotes modern telecommunication services such as rural broadband programs. A new Rural Gigabit Network Pilot Program was authorized to extend high-speed broadband service to rural communities.[3]  The program’s success, progress, and future are discussed here.

The 2014 Farm Bill expanded the Value-Added Agricultural Producer Grants, which help farmers and ranchers diversify into markets such as local and regional food systems and specialty crop production. Annual funding for this program was increased from $15 million to $63 million. The program prioritizes grants for small and medium-sized farms and ranches, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and veterans. A portion of the funds is reserved for food distribution networks and centers, including food hubs for locally or regionally produced agricultural products, which help meet demand and improve healthy food access for people in underserved communities.[1] To read about other Farm Bill programs that support small farmers, view our summary of the Horticulture Title.

The Rural Business Development Grant Program combines the previous Rural Business Enterprise and Rural Business Opportunity grants into one new program. Through it, the USDA offers grants typically ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 in size to support of economic development and job creation in rural areas.[1]

Read the USDA’s Rural Development Fact Sheet for an interactive explanation of these and other programs.

[1] USDA Rural Development: Highlights of the Agriculture Act of 2014, USDA.

[2] 2014 Farm Bill Highlights, USDA.

[3] Chite, Ralph. The 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79): Summary and Side-by-Side, Congressional Research Service.