Exclusive — Congressman Mark Alford (MO-04) introduced the Small Business Administration (SBA) Rural Performance Report Act today. The act aims to create more transparency between small business owners in rural areas and the SBA, specifically its Office of Rural Affairs (ORA).
Alford is no stranger to agriculture and rural-related issues in the House. He is Missouri’s only representative who sits on the 52-seat House Committee on Agriculture.
The bill would require two reports from the SBA that detail exactly how the SBA is elevating small rural businesses. The first report would include statistics from the ORA about rural areas in categories like job creation and retention, unemployment, business failures, and business startups. The first report would also include information about how the ORA is providing information about resources and programs to relevant industries and organizations in rural areas.
The second report would require the SBA to give more information about the findings from its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which was signed back in 2018.
The bill currently has three co-sponsors, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Rep. Jake Ellzey (TX-06), and Rep. Aaron Bean (FL-04).
“Small business owners face many challenges, and that is especially true in rural areas. I was proud to have Jennifer Cassaday from our district come testify last month at our Small Business Committee hearing on rural entrepreneurship. She shared with us the challenges she and other rural small business owners face,” Alford stated.
The hearing on rural entrepreneurship Alford mentioned took place in late July. The hearing included multiple small business owners who testified in front of the members of the House Committee on Small Business, of which Alford is a member, about what it is like to run a small business in rural areas. One of the owners who spoke was Jennifer Cassaday. Cassady owns Byrd’s Pecaon Delights, a bakery located in Adrain, Missouri and is a constituent of Alford.
Congressman Tracey Mann (KS-01) asked Cassaday about what barriers she faced when trying to access capital for her business.
“There are several barriers and you know even just opening up a business, I’ve talked with the local bankers and you know we have very small banks in a small town and I was told that to get an SBA-backed loan is pretty well impossible, you will just be drowned in paperwork and it seems to be never-ending,” Cassaday said.
Later in that hearing, Alford asked the other people testifying if they had ever interacted with the SBA’s Office of Rural Affairs. They were all unaware of the office.
“When I asked the witnesses if they knew about the SBA’s Office of Rural Affairs, they all told me they never heard of it. What the Office is doing to elevate our rural small businesses is unclear. Additionally, agriculture often goes hand-in-hand with rural small businesses, so it is important to see what came of the collaboration between the SBA and USDA. This bill will shed light on the Office and MOU so we can better serve our rural small businesses,” Alford said.
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, who is the vice chair of the House Committee on Small Business, voiced his support of support of the bill.
“Rural communities depend on the success of their small businesses. In small towns, when one business struggles the entire town feels the effect. The SBA exists to ensure the government does not create those struggles. I’m proud to join Congressman Alford in this effort to assess and update federal programs that can and should better support rural small businesses,” Luetkemeyer said.
According to the United States Small Business Administration, Missouri has over 500,000 small businesses that employ almost half of the state’s workforce. Many are located in rural areas of the state.