On May 28, the USDA will begin final implementation of a long-awaited, $13 million investment in rural America's economic recovery. USDA Rural Development is poised to roll out the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. It's a new program that will make grants to organizations that provide training, technical assistance or make small loans to new and existing rural small businesses with ten or fewer employees.

"This is a good investment and the right concept to help rural entrepreneurs and their communities contribute to America's economic recovery," says Steph Larsen of the Center for Rural Affairs.

According to Larsen, the Rural Micro program capitalizes on the fact that most new rural jobs are created in firms with fewer than 10 employees by focusing resources on businesses of that size. On May 28, USDA will publish an interim final rule that establishes the ground rules for how the new program will operate.

"We fought tooth and nail to get this program in the 2008 Farm Bill and to secure funding for it. A $13 million investment in rural entrepreneurial development will make a difference in rural communities across the nation, but the program has been painfully slow in coming and it is crucial that this investment find its way to our rural mainstreets before we begin to lose it," adds Larsen.

The rule can be viewed or downloaded at http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-11931_PI.pdf and, according to Larsen, USDA has indicated that the Notice of Funds Available will also be released in short order, calling for applications to the program.

"We're not perfectly happy with the rule. We know it needs to be improved as the program moves forward, but we are cautiously optimistic that this rule and the soon-to-be-released notice of funding will serve to get this program on its feet and get that $13 million investment into the countryside where it can do some good," adds Larsen.

The Center for Rural Affairs continues to monitor the implementation of the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program implementation and share information with interested individuals and organizations through the Renew Rural America website and through periodic email updates, which anyone can sign up for by contacting Steph Larsen directly at StephL@cfra.org.

"There is a 60-day comment period and we will be making significant comments and encouraging others to do the same," says Larsen. "And we will continue to help rural entrepreneurial development organizations across the country learn about this program and make their applications for funding."