Due to the often-isolated geographic location of rural communities and a declining population, rural America faces a unique set of challenges. To help support these communities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has over 70 programs and initiatives administered through its Rural Development agency. The majority of Rural Development programs administered by USDA are authorized, amended, and created through the Rural Development Title of the Farm Bill. This article is part of an ongoing series that focuses on different themes in the three released 2024 Farm Bill proposals. Specifically, this article focuses on the proposed Rural Development titles.


The Farm Bill, which authorizes most programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an omnibus bill this is enacted approximately every 5 years. An omnibus bill is a single bill that contains multiple, diverse policy proposals. For example, the Farm Bill includes separate Titles like Agriculture, Forestry, Conservation, Rural Development, Nutrition, and more. The most recent Farm Bill, The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, was enacted in 2018, authorized until 2023, and extended through the end of Fiscal Year 2024.

Over the past two months, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have released 2024 Farm Bill proposals. The House released its proposal on May 17, 2024. The House proposal contained full bill text, and advanced through the committee markup process on May 24, 2024. The Senate Majority and Minority also released competing proposed farm bill frameworks. Neither Senate proposal contains actual bill text, nor has a version of either bill been introduced in committee.

2024 Rural Development Proposals

House Proposal

On May 17, 2024, House Committee on Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson (R-PA) released the “Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.” The following week, Chairman Thompson’s Farm Bill proposal was passed by the committee with bipartisan support, receiving a “yes” vote from all Republican committee members and four Democratic committee members. Chairman Thompson has asserted a goal of bringing the bill to a floor vote in September. To read a detailed breakdown of the House Farm Bill proposal, click here.

Specifically, regarding the Rural Development Title, the House bill focuses on a few key subject areas. First, the House bill addresses broadband access in rural areas. The bill would integrate the ReConnect Program into the Farm Bill Broadband Program to create the ReConnect Rural Broadband Program and authorize the program at $350 million per year for 5 years. Additionally, this would raise the minimum eligibility speeds to 50/25 Mbps, so more Americans in rural areas are eligible for loans and grants. The House bill would reauthorize other broadband programs such as the Middle Mile Program, Community Connect Program, Innovative Broadband Advancement Program, and Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, and would codify the Broadband Technical Assistance Program that allows entities to receive technical assistance for all USDA broadband programs.

Next, the House bill looks to help rural areas with precision agriculture. Specifically, the bill would establish a partnership between the federal government and the private sector to create standards and prioritize cybersecurity needs and would reauthorize for one year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Task Force for Reviewing Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture. The House bill also addresses rural access to health care by codifying the Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program and providing refinancing opportunities for certain health care facilities’ debt obligations. Additionally, the bill maintains the set-aside and prioritizes projects that offer substance use disorders treatment through both the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program and Community Facilities Program. The House bill would establish a three-year rural childcare initiative at USDA to help rural communities meet the childcare demands of their area and would require the Secretary of Agriculture to evaluate the initiative upon its completion.

The House bill addresses rural workforce challenges by reauthorizing the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program and modifying it to build out workforce pipelines for specific industry sectors in rural America. The bill addresses essential rural services by reauthorizing current USDA programs, such as the Water & Waster Disposal Loan & Grant Program and the Rural Energy Savings Program. The bill also codifies the Circuit Rider Program, establishes a meat and poultry processing and rendering grant program to support new and expanding meat and poultry processors, and places a 3% cap on guaranteed loan lender feeds for all guaranteed loan programs at USDA Rural Development. Last, the House bill would reauthorize the Rural Business Investment Program for $20 million per year for 5 years and would repeal a provision that prohibits USDA Community Facility Loans from being used to finance projects near wetlands, even when they comply with existing wetland regulations.

Senate Majority Proposal

On May 1, 2024, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a framework proposal of the Farm Bill, titled the “Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act.” Unlike the House proposal, the Senate Majority’s does not contain bill text, but is a section-by-section framework. Because the actual text of the Senate Majority’s bill remains unreleased, the comparisons between the diverging proposals will be based on themes present in the released framework. Click here to read an overview of the Senate Majority’s proposed Rural Development title.

Like the House bill, the Senate Majority framework addresses rural broadband access by establishing their version of the ReConnect Program for areas where at least 75% of the households lack access to broadband service of at least 100-Mbps/20-Mbps. The framework also reauthorizes the Middle Mile Program, Innovative Broadband Advancement Program, and Community Connect Grant Program. Additionally, like the House bill, the Senate Majority framework prioritizes substance use disorder treatment projects and facilities for mental and behavioral health through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program and the Community Facilities Program. While the Senate Majority framework does not specifically mention the three-year rural childcare initiative established in the House bill, it does require a prioritization of projects addressing childcare demands and mandates the Secretary of Agriculture conduct an evaluation of the projects. The Senate Majority framework also requires the Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to publish a resource guide for rural stakeholders on improving access to childcare facilities.

The Senate Majority framework addresses essential services by reauthorizing a number of water and waste disposal-related programs, such as the Rural Decentralized Water Systems, Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program, and Solid Waste Management Grants. Additionally, the framework creates a program addressing water contaminants like PFAS. This program, called the Healthy Drinking Water Affordability Assistance Program, would provide grants for water quality testing and purchase/installation of water filtration systems.

The Senate Majority framework prioritizes support for rural job creation and economic development through the reauthorization of federal programs like the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program and Rural Business Investment Program. The framework creates a new program to support local and regional food systems called the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program. Additionally, the Senate Majority framework establishes the Rural Partnership Program which creates mandatory baseline funding for the first time in the Rural Development Title. This program would receive $50 million per year to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to award multiyear grants to rural entities, and to coordinate partnerships between Federal, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations for investment in rural communities. This program also establishes a competitive grant program called the Rural Partnership Technical Assistance Grants to provide grants for assistance in activities like grant writing, staff training, and developing public-private partnerships.

Senate Minority Proposal

On June 11, 2024, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranking Member, John Boozman (R-AR) released the Senate Minority’s Farm Bill framework proposal. Similar to the Senate Majority, the released document did not contain bill text, but the Republican framework did include a one-page summary of priorities for the Rural Development Title.

Like the other two proposals, the Senate Minority framework makes the ReConnect Program permanent. The Senate Minority framework also highlights new mandatory funding for critical water infrastructure and community facilities in rural communities, continued mandatory investments to rural development loans and grants, and reauthorization and improvements to the Rural Decentralized Water Systems Program. Similar to the Senate Majority framework, the Senate Minority framework mentions both the authorization of federal grants for water quality testing and water filtration system assistance to combat water contaminants like PFAS and the establishment of a new program to provide multiyear awards to intermediaries to aide rural communities with economic development goals and navigating the federal funding application process. Similar to the House bill, the Senate Minority framework addresses barriers to precision agriculture and issues affecting access to healthcare and childcare in rural areas.


The Farm Bill is a multiyear omnibus piece of legislation that covers a variety of diverse food and agriculture related policies. The Farm Bill includes the Rural Development title which provides the authorization, amendments, and creation of Rural Development programs administered through the USDA. While the House, Senate Majority, and Senate Minority Farm Bill proposals contain diverging policies, each provides for continued funding to advance rural economies, increase access to health and childcare in rural America, and strengthen the distribution of broadband and essential services.


To read more about the Rural Development title, click here to view Congressional Research Service Report “Farm Bill Primer: Rural Development Title”

To learn more about the Farm Bill generally, click here to view NALC Farm Bill Resources

To read other articles in the Farm Bill 2024 series, click here.