Rural AmericaBrent Willett, Executive Director of the Cultivation Corridor, was recently asked to offer comments regarding Sec. Hillary Clinton’s Plan for a Vibrant Rural America. His comments follow.

Simplify regulations for community banks

“The plan’s call to lower the regulatory burden faced by community banks is awfully light on specifics, but does serve to elevate an issue which has some currency in rural Iowa, where access to capital is critically important.  How to decouple the regulatory obligations of community banks from their larger peers which themselves are facing unprecedented compliance obligations and ensure a level of regulatory fairness and competitive parity, however is a major challenge.”

Streamline, expand and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC)

“The New Markets Tax Credit Program is one which has benefited a number of economically distressed Iowa communities by helping make major economic development projects bankable, and I’d welcome an extension of the program, though making it permanent, as the plan calls for, isn’t necessary- any federal program which allocates resources at the volume NMTC does ought to face periodic review.  The plan offers virtually no specifics on how to make the program permanent, and does not address a number of questions about the program, including whether the exclusive utilization of census tracts is the most effective way to determine distress.”

Strengthen USDA grant programs

“The plan makes reference to ‘strengthen[ing] USDA[‘s] grant programs,’ but what’s glaringly missing is a broader acknowledgement of enormous importance of federal investment in agricultural research an innovation in America and a plan to ensure our country is at the forefront of ag innovation in the coming decades.  For every federal dollar spent on agricultural research in the U.S., nearly $13 is spent on medical research. The USDA’s research budget is just shy of $2.4 billion. The National Institute for Health’s is more than $30 billion.  Of course, the work NIH does is incredibly important and they deserve every penny. But in the face of a global population increase which is going to place 9.5 billion people on earth by 2050 which will mean we must produce more food in the next 35 years than we have in the last 10,000 combined, shouldn’t we be talking about how the U.S. and states like Iowa can be the global center of innovation to meet these challenges?  Major expansions of federal ag research funding is something truly important to the future economy of Iowa.  I don’t see that anywhere in this document.”

Support the bio-based economy’s dynamic growth

“I’m pleased to see reference to a strengthening of the RFS and support for the growth of programs to help grow the renewable chemical and biobased product industries in the US- emerging industries which Iowa is as uniquely positioned to capitalize on in the next ten years as we were on ethanol 20 years ago.”