WASHINGTON – Senate Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu along with fellow Committee members Senators Maria Cantwell, Kay Hagan, and Mark Pryor, today sent a letter urging the U.S. Small Business Administration to better coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist small businesses in underserved rural areas. More than a year ago, on April 22, 2010, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding that set a goal to increase the number of small business loans guaranteed by SBA and USDA, as well as to expand technical assistance in rural areas. In a recent Committee hearing on June 16, 2011, the Government Accountability Office testified about concerns on the lack of action on this MOU.

“While GAO noted that this is a step in the right direction towards improving coordination, it also testified about concerns on a general lack of action on this MOU. Similarly, we believe the MOU alone is not a success story unless there are activities in the field offices. In light of our recent Committee hearing and the President’s announcement of a White House Rural Council, we write to get further information on specific activities resulting from the SBA-USDA MOU,” the Senators wrote in the letter.

The MOU included an agreement to semiannual meetings between SBA District Directors (or designees) and their Rural Development counterpart. Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Washington are part of the seventeen (17) states covered by this MOU. Today’s letter to SBA included the following specific questions:

• What collaborative activities has SBA taken since entering into the MOU with USDA in April 2010? Please detail each action, the specific goal of each action, and locations of these collaborative activities.

• Have surveys of your district offices been conducted to determine the extent to which the collaboration is occurring with USDA across the country?

• Does SBA have offices co-located with USDA Rural Development offices? If so, where?

• Has the SBA partnered with any regional/state/local organizations under the auspices of the MOU?

This is second letter by Chair Landrieu this week regarding business assistance in rural communities. Yesterday, Chair Landrieu sent a letter to the SBA regarding the agency’s participation in the White House Rural Council. The SBA is one of 25 Executive Branch agencies, offices, and departments listed as a member of the White House Rural Council in Executive Order 13575. President Obama signed this order on June 9, 2011 to establish the White House Rural Council. This is an interagency coordination council designed to provide policy recommendations to promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America.

To see of copy of today’s letter, click here.

To see a copy of yesterday’s letter regarding the White House Rural Council, click here.