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Rural agenda includes jobs, infrastructure
Buckeye Farm News
In comments at a U.S. Department of Agriculture outlook forum, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said AFBF is employing a two-pronged approach to improve the quality of life in rural America: public policy advocacy and serving as a ready resource on rural development issues for states and counties.
“Well into the late 20th Century, American agriculture operated under the attitude that farming was the backbone of rural America,” Stallman said. “That paradigm is drastically changing. Off-farm income is of growing importance to farm families. Averaged across all farms, USDA’S 2008 estimate says 92.5 percent of total farm family income comes from off-farm sources.”
Stallman said it is clear that today’s farm families need employment opportunities in their hometowns in addition to their farm income. And they need vibrant local businesses that provide goods and services to their farms. But, he said, the relationship between farmers and rural communities is still a two-way street.
“Make no mistake. Rural communities need farmers and agriculture,” Stallman said. “Agriculture and the land and tax base America’s farmers and ranchers provide are in a great many cases the financial
base for county and rural governments. They are the way rural America pays for its schools, often paves the roads and keeps sheriffs on the payroll.”
Many issues dealing with rural development are high on the national agenda these days as they relate to economic recovery. Stallman emphasized the need for high quality, affordable and accessible high-speed Internet service as vital for improving all aspects of life in rural America. He said broadband options in rural areas can often be cost prohibitive and that rural America lacks affordable, modern telecommunications infrastructure.
In addition, he emphasized the importance of improving rural highways and the inland waterway systems of locks and dams, both used to transport farm goods and critical for economic recovery.