Ag Policy Blog

Report: Congress Should Allow USDA RD Programs to Fund Child-Care Facilities

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Rural parents often have limited access to child care. A report led by the Bipartisan Policy Center and backed by a wide range of groups wants Congress to allow USDA's Rural Development programs to help support child-care facilities in rural areas. (DTN image by Katie Dehlinger)

Congress should authorize the USDA's Rural Development programs to help expand child-care facilities in rural areas because parents in rural America often must travel much farther than urban parents to find child-care facilities, according to a report released Wednesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The report was financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Heising-Simon Foundation, but signed by a wide range of rural interests.

The First Five Years Fund, an early learning advocacy organization that is one of the signatories to the report, noted that "40% of the population lives in rural areas in 10 states, while more than 2 million people live in rural areas in 11 states -- including ones critical to the outcome of the makeup of Congress and the White House next year, like Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York."

The FFYF added, "Congressional leaders from largely rural states like Alabama, Maine, Vermont and Texas will soon be working on funding for federal programs that can make child care more affordable and more accessible to working families."

The report noted that a 2021 BPC survey on rural child care "found that rural parents were significantly more likely to drive more than 10 miles to access child care, with only 26% able to find child care within five miles. This compares with 39% and 35% of suburban and urban parents, respectively. In towns with 500 residents or fewer, 51% have access to a child-care center and 34% have access to a family child-care home. By comparison, in a town with 501 to 2,500 residents, 70% have access to a child-care center and 40% have access to a family child-care home. In towns of both sizes, 64% have access to a Head Start program. Reduced access to child care affects parents' ability to work: 86% of rural parents who are personally, or their partner is not currently working, say that child care responsibilities influenced their decision to not work."

The report says the federal government should:

- Authorize the use of funding from USDA rural business development grant programs, rural microentrepreneur assistance programs, and rural innovation stronger economy grant programs for the expansion and/or construction of child-care facilities for the purposes of increasing safe, direct child-care services in rural communities.

- Exempt home-based child care from the USDA's Rural Development housing regulations prohibiting ties to commercial use.

- Expand the USDA's Rural Partners Network to include child-care representation in the network and programming, as well as to provide technical assistance for communities in need of child-care infrastructure.

- Increase the Child Care & Development Block Grant administrative cap for geographically large states with small populations to reflect the additional administrative burden associated with travel time.

The report also says that "large land mass states, such as Wyoming, should be able to dedicate additional resources toward the administrative costs necessary to ensure quality child care."

The report includes recommendations for actions that could be taken by state and local governments, private businesses and philanthropic organizations.

Bipartisan Policy Center report -- Rural Child Care Policy Framework…

Bipartisan House Coalition Introduces Sustainable Aviation Fuels Bill

Reps. Nikki Budzinski, D-Ill.; Max Miller, R-Ohio; Mike Flood, R-Neb.; Angie Craig, D-Minn.; Brad Finstad, R-Minn.; Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa; Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas; and Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, this week introduced the bipartisan Farm to Fly Act, a bill to foster the development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) within existing Agriculture Department programs, allow for greater collaboration, and ensure USDA's SAF definitions reflect eligibility for American agricultural crops.

"By utilizing sustainable aviation fuel, we can cut harmful emissions, support family farmers and reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources," Budzinski said in a news release. "I'm proud to join Congressman Max Miller and colleagues on both sides of the aisle on the Farm to Fly Act -- legislation that will allow homegrown biofuels to power our aviation sector while supporting growth in rural economies. With this bill, we can empower the USDA to drive a sustainable future for our aviation industry."

The bipartisan Farm to Fly Act would:

? Clarify eligibility for Sustainable Aviation Fuels within the Agriculture Department Bio-Energy Programs expanding markets for American agricultural crops through aviation bioenergy.

? Provide for greater collaboration for aviation biofuels throughout the USDA mission areas, increasing private sector partnerships.

? Affirm a common definition of SAF for USDA purposes, as widely supported by industry and congressional leaders to enable U.S. crops to contribute to aviation renewable fuels most effectively.

The legislation has been endorsed by Archer Daniels Midland, Green Plains, the National Corn Growers Association, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, Bayer, the National Biodiesel Board, the National Farmers Union, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the American Council on Renewable Energy, DSM Co., the American Security Project, the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and the National Sorghum Producers. It also has support from Airlines for America, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Jet Blue Airlines, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The Renewable Fuels Association "strongly supports the Farm to Fly Act," said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. "We applaud the determined efforts of Rep. Miller -- along with co-sponsors Reps. Flood, Craig, Finstad, Budzinski, Crockett, Hinson and Feenstra -- to introduce this important legislation, which creates more clarity and stability around the development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) made from U.S. crops. By ensuring the best available science and modeling tools are used to calculate the carbon benefits of homegrown renewable fuels, this bill helps position SAF for takeoff."

-Farm to Fly Act…

Crawford, Davis Release Ag Labor Working Group Interim Report

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Don Davis, D-N.C., co-chairs of the House Agriculture Committee-appointed Ag Labor Working Group, on Tuesday released its interim report on the issues facing agricultural labor and the H-2A visa program.

"Based on the information available, it is becoming clear that our agricultural visa policies are in desperate need of reforms. I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Davis and the rest of the working group to develop a final report with commonsense, bipartisan solutions," said Crawford.

Davis noted that the working group held a series of sessions that are summarized in the report. "There is room for Congress to update the H-2A program so our food system can continue to operate and feed and clothe the American people. I look forward to more work with Co-Chairman Crawford and the other members of the working group in crafting a final report that brings forward bipartisan solutions."

"Given the high costs and regulatory complexities of the H-2A program, farmers use it as a last resort. As outlined in this report, there are barriers to utilizing the H-2A program. Despite its shortfalls, the H-2A program is still an integral part of the agricultural workforce when domestic workers are unavailable," the conclusion of the report said.

John Hollay, director of U.S. government relations for the International Fresh Produce Association, said, "IFPA is heartened by the release of the bipartisan House Agriculture Committee's Agriculture Labor Working Group interim report. IFPA worked closely with the working group to identify key challenges within the H-2A program and reforms Congress must consider. In particular, we emphasized how onerous DOL and DHS regulations are shaping the future of the program, to the detriment of growers and our industry in large part because Congress has not yet acted. As noted in the report, we need congressional action on labor priorities, otherwise farmers risk losing their farms."

-Ag Labor Working Group interim report…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

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