Writing for the Daily Yonder blog, Doug O'Brien, deputy undersecretary for Rural Development programs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, weighs in on the discussion about the USDA's definition of "rural."
"[T]he different definitions cause confusion for our stakeholders and sometimes cause communities to walk away from possible deals because either the definitions cause roadblocks or they are not interested in contorting the different projects in such a way that may meet the letter of the rural definition. At the end of the day, we are always looking for ways that Rural Development can be a better partner in supporting businesses, individuals and communities in capturing economic opportunity," O'Brien writes.
He argues that "setting the limit at 50,000 allows and facilitates collaboration among rural communities."
O'Brien is responding to a USDA report on how to define “rural” for the department’s development programs. The report recommends creating a single definition (50,000 or fewer residents) for program eligibility and using other criteria to ensure that small communities remain competitive in development funding.