Via The Ethicurean, here’s a short but interesting segment from NPR about the rural U.S. and what a new administration can and should do for the people that live there. Though rural reform is often thought to be all about new agricultural policies, the rural U.S. needs that and more.
“Reality … for most rural people is that farming is not how we make our living,” says Dee Davis of the Center for Rural Strategies, a Kentucky-based group that tries to attract attention to rural issues. “You’ve only got about 1 percent of rural America making their primary living on the farm. So what’s important is to think about those other 99 percent and what’s possible for them.”
Many rural Americans are challenged by a rural economy that tanked sooner and deeper than the nation’s economy. Thousands of rural manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. High energy prices have made food and long commutes more expensive. And most rural places are losing population.
So while quick agricultural reform is an increasingly urgent necessity, it must be implemented alongside others as well to have a significant and long-lasting effect on rural communities.
“Internet access is not just for watching YouTube. It’s an instrument of commerce and education,” Kozikowski says.
In fact, rural areas lag behind cities and suburbs in access to broadband, making economic growth more difficult. Kozikowski also wants attention given to the basic infrastructure of asphalt and concrete. “Bringing us into the age of technology for new commerce and educational opportunity doesn’t mean anything if you can’t bring your product across a safe road or bridge.”
Both moves would help “overcome the friction of distance. Or overcome the costs that are associated with distance to these locations,” as Gimpel puts it. He wants the new administration to recognize something else fundamental about rural life: “Key to the rural economy really is the notion of self-employment. Self-employment is much higher in rural America than it is anywhere else,” he says.
Davis also points out that there are many exciting possibilities for incorporating rural areas into new economic recovery plans for the entire country, focusing mainly on their potential for growing renewable energies systems and economies.
“We don’t have to think of rural as a deficit. We can think of it as a strength,” Davis says. “We can think of it as the way to begin to reimagine our economy.”
Can, and should.
This post was written by Emily on November 24, 2008