rural economy

Rural broadband projects get $500 million in USDA funding

The Biden administration announced a half a billion dollars in grants and loans for high-speed internet projects in rural areas from Alaska to Alabama on Thursday, with more awards expected soon. The 2021 infrastructure bill set aside billions of dollars for broadband access, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We now have, genuinely, an opportunity to cover all of rural America.”

Vilsack: We will act quickly on aid to financially distressed farmers

A congressionally created $3.1 billion debt relief program for financially distressed farmers who borrowed money through USDA programs could be in place within weeks, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. Speed is vital, he said, because a moratorium on debt collections and foreclosures could expire in October.

As farmland values soar, so do fears of a price bubble

Flush with cash, farmers and investors have driven up farmland values this year at breathtaking rates — a 12 percent gain nationwide and more than 20 percent in three Farm Belt states. “Given recent experiences with fluctuations in the broader economy and prior farmland price dynamics, many market participants express concern that the rapid increase in farmland prices is a signal of a speculative bubble,” said three economists.

Farmland values rise alongside strong ag economy

Persistently strong commodity prices in the opening months of the year fueled a sharp growth in farmland values throughout the Midwest and Plains, said a Federal Reserve report on Thursday.

SNAP lowered rural poverty by 1.4 percentage points

Food stamps had a greater effect in reducing poverty rates in rural America than in urban areas when viewed through the Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure, said an American Enterprise Institute newsletter. Northwestern University professor Diane Schanzenbach calculated that SNAP lowered the poverty rate in rural areas by 1.4 percentage points compared to a 0.8 point reduction in urban America.

Farm income is forecast far above average for second year

Record-high expenses and sharply lower federal subsidies will erode farm income in 2022, according to a forecast by the Agriculture Department. Nonetheless, U.S. agriculture would see one of its best years on record, with net farm income 26 percent above its 10-year average.

Rural America needs ‘circular economy,’ says Vilsack

Congress could use the 2023 farm bill to promote a “circular economy” that creates jobs and income in rural America rather than relying on rural areas for raw materials that are processed elsewhere, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. “That's an important component of any farm bill discussion of the future,” he told reporters.

Sharp decline in farm income likely this year

After reaching an eight-year high thanks to massive pandemic payments in 2021, net farm income — USDA's gauge of profitability — is expected to fall precipitously this year. The USDA will make its first forecast of farm income on Friday.

Highest U.S. farm income in eight years, but headwinds in 2022

Despite the disruptions of the pandemic, U.S. farm income, a broad measure of profits, will be the highest since 2013, thanks to strong corn, soybean, wheat, broiler, cattle, and hog prices this year, said the USDA on Wednesday. "It is primarily a price story," said USDA economist Carrie Litkowski.

‘Build back’ bill has nearly $90 billion for ag and rural America

The USDA would receive nearly $90 billion through the "build back better" bill to mitigate climate change, reduce the risk of wildfires, provide debt relief for economically distressed farmers, and encourage rural economic growth, said the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

One in seven rural Americans lived in poverty during 2020 pandemic

Nearly 6 million people in rural America had incomes below the poverty line during the pandemic year of 2020, an increase of 315,000 from the preceding year, according to a Census Bureau estimate released on Tuesday. The annual Income and Poverty report indicated that one in seven rural residents lived in poverty, compared to the national average of one in nine.

USDA to invest $464 million in renewable energy infrastructure in rural communities

The USDA will invest $464 million to strengthen electric service in rural communities through smart-grid technology and help agricultural producers and businesses add renewable energy systems to lower energy costs and build climate-smart energy capacity in 48 states and Puerto Rico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday. 

Solar leases more popular than carbon contracts among farmers

The relative handful of farmers who have signed carbon sequestration contracts is half the size of the group that has leased land for solar electricity production, said Purdue University on Tuesday. Solar leases, which may exceed $1,000 an acre annually, are more lucrative than the rates offered for carbon capture.

Biden backs ‘right to repair,’ from tractors to tech

President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment, said the White House on Tuesday. The "right-to-repair" rules were expected to include smartphones and other widely used devices.

Former Rep. Torres Small is selected to lead rural development at USDA

President Biden chose former Rep Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico to serve as agriculture undersecretary for rural development, overseeing a portfolio of $43 billion in housing, utilities and business and industry programs. Congress overrode a Trump-era reorganization of USDA to re-create the Senate-confirmed post in 2018.

Biden proposes $100 billion to bring broadband to all Americans

President Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure package — "a once-in-a-generation investment in America" — on Wednesday that calls for spending $100 billion to deliver affordable and reliable broadband service to all Americans. The package also proposed a $5 billion Rural Partnership Program to support locally led initiatives to create jobs and economic growth in rural America.

Record-high ag subsidies to supply 39 percent of farm income

Despite the effects of the pandemic and the trade war, U.S. farm income this year will be the highest since 2013 because of the largest federal payments ever — $46.5 billion, triple the usual amount, the government said on Wednesday. Think tank analysts said farm income would fall in 2021 with the expiration of Trump-era bailouts, but the drop-off will be lessened by the ongoing rally in commodity prices and increased ag exports.

Perdue tempers optimism on ‘phase one’ ag sales to China

Five weeks after saying he was hopeful China would import $36.6 billion of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is less certain the target will be met. A spate of sales to China during August and September has raised hopes in farm country that the goal, set in the "phase one" trade agreement, would be met despite a slow start.

Rural advantages in coronavirus recovery

The coronavirus "dealt an economically devastating hand to nearly the whole country," but job losses were smaller and shutdowns were shorter in rural America, said rural lender CoBank in a quarterly report. "Economic recovery may now favor rural communities for the first time in many years."(No paywall)

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