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History of the National Rural Development Partnership

The Idaho Rural Partnership: A Brief History

The Idaho Rural Partnership (IRP) was created by executive order on May 5, 1991, under the “National Initiative on Rural Development.” Nationally, policy supporting state rural development councils and federal participation in them have been included in the Farm Bill since 2002.

Executive orders authorizing the continuation of IRP were signed by subsequent Governors until the executive order language was passed by the Idaho Legislature and signed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter as the “Idaho Rural Development Partnership Act” in 2008. This legislation establishes IRP as an Independent Public Body Corporate and Politic. Examples of other state entities structured this way include the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and Idaho Health Insurance Exchange. The Idaho Rural Development Partnership Act legislation was codified in Title 67, Chapter 90 Idaho Code. This 2008 statute has been amended once (in 2016)

The IRP Board is comprised of 35 individuals who work together to improve economic and social conditions in rural Idaho. Board members are appointed by the Governor or otherwise serve on the board pursuant to Idaho Code. They include representatives from federal, state, tribal and local agencies, non-profit organizations as well as private industry. Representatives from other agencies and organizations not named in statute also participate in board meetings and make significant contributions to IRP program activities. Jon Barrett serves as IRP’ Executive Director.


Idaho Rural Partnership Mission

The Idaho Rural Partnership (IRP) joins diverse public and private resources in 
innovative collaborations to strengthen communities and improve life in rural Idaho.


Over the years, several agencies have served as IRP’s “host institution”, including Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho Department of Commerce, Idaho Department of Agriculture, and Division of Financial Management. The Idaho Department of Commerce currently serves as IRP’s host.  Twin Falls-based Region IV Development Association has served as IRP fiscal sponsor since 2010.

IRP is an active member of Partners for Rural America, a national organization of rural development councils associated with the National Rural Development Partnership (NRDP).  See www.partnersforruralamerica.org for more information.

From 1992-2009, most financial support from IRP came from a combination of state and federal funding. Since 2009, funding has come from diverse sources, included federal grant funding (primarily USDA-Rural Development), private sector contributions, other foundation grants, and donations by local businesses and organizations in the communities we serve.

IRP is most known for the Idaho Community Review Program first created in 2000.  Since then, community reviews have been conducted in over 40 rural Idaho communities.  Other program and outreach activities over the years have included:

  • Statewide rural summits
  • Hosting regional gatherings of community and economic development leaders
  • Leadership development trainings
  • Support for other organizations and programs that support rural communities, such as Leadership Idaho Agriculture and Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
  • A newsletter (the Idaho Ruralist E-bulletin), website, and Facebook page.