Summit to Ignite Rural America

The federal government recognizes the power of rural America.

To harness and leverage this power, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will host The National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise, June 3, 2010.

“This Summit will be an opportunity for rural Americans to share their vision for creating a more prosperous and promising future for rural America,” said Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack.

The campus of Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo., will welcome the event.

Participants include farmers, ranchers and foresters, as well as agriculture policymakers and community leaders, and features Vilsack, Agriculture Deputy Sec. Kathleen Merrigan and the full USDA sub-cabinet.

In addition to plenary topics, several breakout sessions are planned about rural issues concerning:
  • Creation of new jobs
  • Improvement of infrastructure
  • Improvement of farm competitiveness
  • Development of small businesses
  • Encouragement of innovation in renewable energy
A complete itinerary of the summit is located at its Web site.

The summit’s overall goal is the development of proposals into future program and policy discussions. The summit culminates the USDA’s Rural Tour – a 22-state circuit of specific rural-development discussions.

Interest in the summit is so great; registration for it has reached capacity and has been closed. But, the USDA has utilized social-media sites to help bring the discussion to as many people as possible.

Individuals can listen to the summit live at the USDA’s media center home page, or visit its Facebook page to participate in an online chat.

However, some are not as optimistic about the administration’s rural goals.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and other members of the Senate Western Caucus, wrote a letter to President Obama stating that current rural policies are hurting rural communities across the country. They requested a meeting with Obama before the summit.

“It is past time for the administration to put its misguided policies for rural America out to pasture,” said Hatch. “Before foisting more onerous federal regulations, costs and other burdens on rural communities in Utah and other states, the administration needs to consider the damage its current policies are doing to family farms, domestic-energy production and access to public lands and make a course-correction.”

Regardless of one’s perceptions about current rural strategy, it is certain that there is significant potential for expanding the capabilities of rural America to continue to economically support and to increase its economic support of our national economy.

Do you think rural America deserves this much federal attention? How can the administration utilize feedback from the summit in the most effective manner? Do Sen. Hatch and other critics of current rural strategy have a valid opinion?

*Photo obtained from

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