An Open Letter To All Senators and Representatives Who Serve a Rural Constituency

  • Matt Hildreth
  • Tue, 05/16/2017 - 00:17
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Many communities in rural America are in decline. According to the Center for Rural Affairs, Nearly 7 in 10 rural Americans fear their small town life may be dying, yet 90% say this way of life is worth fighting for.

However, instead of expanding federal programs to rebuild rural America, the Trump Administration may be demoting and cutting the only program at the United States Department of Agriculture solely focused on supporting small towns and rural communities. 

Recently, Donald Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue released a plan eliminating the Undersecretary of Rural Development which means that rural communities will no longer have an equal seat the USDA table. 

The move has many rural advocates worried that the Trump Administration is deprioritizing rural revitalization in favor of boosting international trade that benefits millionaires and billionaires in the Agricultural industry. Many advocates believe that federal USDA programs should prioritize rebuilding small towns and rural communities, not international trade that only benefits the millionaires and billionaires in the agricultural industry.

Last week, Frank Spillers, a cultural transition and rural development expert with 30 years of experience at the local, state, and federal levels published an open letter to all Senators and Representatives that serve a rural constituency.

You can see the letter here:

To all Senators and Representatives that serve a rural constituency;

RE: Sec. Perdue's Restructuring USDA and getting rid of the Office or the Under Secretary of Rural Development.

The pitfalls of demoting the Office of the Under Secretary of Rural Development that I see are:

  • devaluing an agency that has invested more than $216 billion into rural America, and the fact there is not another agency that has sole responsibility to see rural communities grow. Many of our communities have benefited from loans and grants to upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities, rural water systems, businesses created that supply needed jobs, communities creating revolving loan for small, micro-businesses that cannot get conventional bank financing, co-ops that have been strengthened, energy loans and grants for farmers to install alternative energy sources, and not to mention improving the much-needed housing infrastructure for new and existing homes.
  • The farm economy is important to rural America, but it will not be as strong if there are not strong communities to support the farm families. They also rely on rural water systems, strong schools, and local businesses to purchase goods and services from for their families. It would increase the cost of doing business if many of those services were not available locally.

For more than 20 years, I have worked with all level of policymakers to streamline rural programs so they will be delivered more efficiently, especially so rural areas have better access to them and less red tape. I have worked with the National Rural Partnership, Rural Development Councils, federal policy councils, the office of Vice-President Gore, and many rural associations that see a need to strengthen rural access. Never was there been a time to suggest to demote the office of Rural Development. In fact, up to this point, both parties saw value in maintaining Rural Development’s strength.

As I have said many times before, for the first time in history, between 2010 – 2014, more rural counties lost population than gained. Now is not the time to play politics and balance the budget on the back of rural America. We need a strong voice for our rural communities. Businesses are counting on our policymakers to do the right thing and strengthen the rural business economy with jobs and entrepreneurship that can build the towns where they choose to live.

Let’s keep the dialogue going and have dialogues in your districts with constituents. There is not a better conversation to have than with people that will be directly affected.

Thank you for your service to rural America. Keeping all of the economy sectors strong is good for all families.