Related Rural Blog Posts

  • “Someday” is Now: Direct Farm Payments and the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction

    For nearly two decades, I have served in agriculture policy capacities for the federal government – most of those years with the United States Department Agriculture.  Today, I am reminded of a quote by Will Rogers.  The outspoken Oklahoman once remarked, “An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.”  Instead, Rogers made so many Americans laugh during some of the most difficult times in the history of rural America, sometimes pointing out irony in the activities of government.

    Today marks a truly historic action, as President Obama proposes dramatic, yet common sense reform to what has become over the years, a product of conventional politics and longstanding irony in the landscape of government.  As part of the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction announced today, President Obama is proposing to terminate direct farm subsidies.  At nearly $5 billion in funding per year, the Direct Payments program is certainly no laughing matter.  And if a vegetable were ever developed per the Rogers quote above, it wouldn’t qualify for direct payments, because vegetables are not deemed to be “program crops”. (more on that in a moment)  

    As the lead advisor on rural issues for the President’s Domestic Policy Council, some will ask me “why advocate for the reduction of an agriculture program?”  In short, I believe the President’s proposal seeks to establish new policy that has been long overdue, and takes action that conventional thinking would regard as either too difficult, or too controversial.

  • Mobilizing Rural Communities: Partnerships and Outreach in Montana

    This week, I served as keynote speaker for a special conference in Great Falls, Montana, convened by Rural Dynamics Incorporated.  The theme of the conference  was “Mobilizing Rural Communities” and included participants representing a host of private, public, and non-profit participants.  It has been less than three months since President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the first White House Rural Council.  The Great Falls conference provided an opportunity to connect with many great folks from the Northern Plains Region, who are working on a daily basis on local projects and local partnerships to further the economic development and vitality of rural areas.

    The group was very interested to learn more about the work of the White House Rural Council.  We discussed President Obama’s priority of ensuring that rural areas have additional opportunities for economic investment and available working capital.  We also discussed the need for innovation in the areas of high-speed Internet, renewable energy opportunities, as well as enhancements in education and health care.  Topics involving natural resource-related business enterprises, public works, and forestry – all key focus areas for the White House Rural Council—were also discussed.

  • Rural America and The President's Jobs Plan

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the USDA Blog.

    Last night, I went to the Capitol to hear the President address Congress about the way forward to grow the economy and create jobs.
     
    There is no doubt that these have been tough times.  And it’s very tough for the many Americans who are looking for work.  So we’ve got to keep finding ways to help the unemployed in the short term and rebuild the middle class over the long term.
     
    The American Jobs Act that President Obama laid out this evening will have an immediate impact.  It will create jobs now.  And it is based on bipartisan ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past. 
     
    Americans living in rural communities know well that the specific ideas in the bill work.

  • West Wing Week 09/01/11, or "Goodnight, Irene"

    Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, the President led the federal response to Hurricane Irene, made a key nomination announcement, and addressed the American Legion's 93rd annual conference. That's August 26th to September 1st or "Goodnight, Irene."

    Watch West Wing Week here.

  • Digital Literacy is Part of Job Preparedness

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the NTIA Blog.

    Broadband Internet is a catalyst for job creation. In fact, a recent report by McKinsey & Company finds that the Internet has created 2.6 jobs for each job it has eliminated. To take full advantage of the economic opportunities enabled by broadband, however, more Americans need online skills. For instance, broadband service allows a small business owner in rural America to sell her goods to consumers around the world – but online skills are also required.

    NTIA’s research shows that nearly one-third of Americans do not use the Internet, leaving them cut off from the online economy. Many are rural Americans, seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, the unemployed, and those with low incomes. The most common reason for not adopting broadband is the perception that it is not needed. But broadband is increasingly needed to find jobs, and 21st century skills are needed to get those jobs.

    NTIA is working on several fronts to help bridge this digital divide. Most notably, our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has invested in approximately 230 projects to expand broadband access and adoption in communities nationwide. Funded by the Recovery Act, BTOP projects have already delivered more than 8,000 miles of broadband networks and installed or upgraded more than 9,000 workstations at public computer centers.

  • White House Rural Council Roundtables on Job Growth

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted in part from The Commerce Blog.

    White House Rural Council Roundtable

    U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, participate in White House Rural Council Roundtable in Pine Bluff, AR on August 24, 2011.

    Last week, as part of his three day bus tour, President Obama stopped in Peosta, Iowa to participate in the White House Rural Economic Forum, where he announced a series of initiatives that leverage existing programs and funding to help small businesses and meet the critical needs in rural communities. In the coming weeks, the President will put forth additional proposals that will help put people back to work and give the middle class greater economic security. Promoting economic and job growth in rural communities is central to these goals.

    Earlier this week, I traveled to Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas with Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct project site visits and participate in White House Rural Council Roundtables in Houma and Bastrop, LA as well as Pine Bluff, AR. We heard from stakeholders in the region about how the federal government has and can be a better partner as we invest in rural economies.

    On August 26, 2011, U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA)  will host a webinar to discuss best practices to promote rural small business development. White House Rural Council members Chris Masingill of DRA and Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Earl Gohl will share best practices and successes with close to 400 participants.