USDA Secretary Mike Johanns released USDA's farm bill theme paper on rural development this week. It describes the current state of rural development, discusses and evaluates current key rural development programs available to communities and individuals and concludes with a discussion of general policy alternatives.

The paper, available at www.usda.gov/farmbill, discusses three alternatives for addressing rural development:

  • maintain the structure and tools of existing programs but refine program targeting;
  • focus on new business formation supported with rural private investment and
  • move toward greater regionalized funding.
-- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent