2014 farm bill signing used to promote rural growth initiative

News
Feb 14, 2014

When President Obama traveled to Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, to sign the 2014 farm bill, he slipped in his new plan to improve exports for rural America.

His new initiative will be overseen by the White House Rural Council and funded by federal resources, and has been dubbed the “Made In Rural America” campaign.

While signing the $956 billion farm bill on Friday, Jan. 7, Obama gave credit to the U.S.’ thriving agricultural sector for the nation’s overall economy.

“We’ve had the strongest stretch of farm exports in our history,” Obama said. “We are selling more stuff to more people than ever before,” he said, adding, “What we grow here and what we sell is a huge boost to the entire economy, but particularly the rural economy.”

“I’m directing my administration to launch a new “Made in Rural America” initiative to help more rural businesses expand and hire and sell more products stamped “Made in the USA” to the rest of the world—because we’ve got great products here that need to be sold and we can do even more to sell around the world,” the President said just before signing the farm bill.

According to the White House, this initiative is charged with bringing together federal resources to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.

Specifically, the President has instructed his Rural Council—in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and other agencies—to commit to connecting more rural businesses of all types to export information and assistance through a comprehensive strategy including the following specific commitments, to be provided over the next nine months:

• Host five “Made in Rural America” regional forums dedicated to promoting rural exports by providing rural leaders and businesses with information about federal and other resources available to help expand exports. Working with local partners including the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, these exportfocused regional forums will help rural businesses take advantage of new market opportunities by providing training from experienced exporters and federal officials on the basics of exporting, accessing federal support, and participating in major trade events and trade shows across the country, as well as overseas trade missions.

• Convene an “Investing in Rural America” conference later this year to connect major investors with rural business leaders, high-level government officials, economic development experts, and other partners. This conference, hosted by the White House Rural Council in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and other partners, will promote opportunities to invest in Rural America by highlighting successful projects in: energy; biofuels and bioproducts; infrastructure, from transportation to water systems to telecommunications; healthcare; manufacturing; and local and regional food systems.

• Host training sessions to equip local USDA Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the tools they need to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources. The Department of Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will cross-train USDA Rural Development staff so they can better deliver support or refer rural businesses to federal services.

• Provide enhanced export counseling for rural businesses to connect with foreign buyers through the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Export Assistance Center trade specialists in over 100 domestic locations and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s field staff. • Coordinate across the Administration to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events including trade missions, buyer programs, trade shows, and other promotion programs. • Educate local leaders across the country on the importance of rural exports in partnership with NACo and through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee in order to connect these leaders with federal resources and information to better support rural businesses to develop their potential for exporting.

• Use the BusinessUSA online platform to better connect rural businesses with export and investment resources and coordinate support from across the federal government. BusinessUSA was launched by the President last year to serve as a “one-stop-shop” that matches businesses and entrepreneurs to the full range of services and resources available to them at every stage of development. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor

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