White House Rural Council Blog

  • Serving Rural America’s Kids and Families

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog. See the original post here.

    Every parent’s wish is for their children to thrive and prosper. Yet, too many of our nation’s families still live in poverty, despite doing their best to make ends meet. Rural families and children have additional challenges as schools, health care services, healthy food choices, jobs, and other opportunities are often miles away in a different town, county, or even state. The Obama administration is committed to these families, and believes that all children — no matter where they live — should have an opportunity to succeed.

    Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the National 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play, and grow.

    We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to these young leaders and tell you about the projects that encouraged President Obama to invite them to the White House to say “thank you.” Investing in kids like these is an investment in America’s future.

  • Opportunity for All: White House Rural Council Launches “Rural Impact” Effort to Help Rural Children and Families Succeed

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serves Des Moines, IA McCombs Middle School student Miracle Kizer

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serves Des Moines, IA McCombs Middle School student Miracle Kizer from the fruit line at the after-school meal program offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa at McCombs Middle School in Des Moines, IA, on Thursday, Apr. 9, 2015. (USDA Photo by Laura Crowell)

    President Obama believes that every child should have an opportunity to succeed. Yet some rural kids are falling behind—or worse, starting behind. A full 85 percent of our country’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. Lack of opportunity for rural kids and families is often compounded by other challenges, including distance from health and early learning programs, lack of access to public transportation, and higher rates of drug and substance abuse, among others. But for all kids, the road to successful adulthood relies on a strong foundation of access to basic health, nutrition, high-quality early education, strong schools, and support from parents and caregivers.

    Rural Impact is a new effort from the White House Rural Council to address the challenge of rural child poverty by bringing together federal agencies and public and private resources. Rural Impact focuses primarily on a multi-generational approach to how public and private resources are invested in rural families and communities. With support from the President, Cabinet officials, universities, foundations, non-profits and community groups, Rural Impact will focus primarily on three major areas:

    1. Innovation: Developing new approaches of program delivery, including integrated services and remote health and learning technology, to address rural challenges and barriers;
    2. Awareness: Enhancing public awareness of rural child poverty and its impact on the future of rural communities and our nation’s global competitiveness; and
    3. Investment: Improving access to high-quality child care, early learning, and continuing education, and making work pay.

  • Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

    Latta Groundbreaking

    State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

    -- President Obama, January 31, 2015

    The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.

    In small towns and rural communities, kids living in poverty often miss out on these opportunities. They are often isolated and have limited access to support services. School may be miles away, the health care clinic miles in the other direction and the nearest grocery store in yet another direction. Public transportation options are limited, and the family car may be in the shop. Rent might be hard to meet and college might seem to be only a dream.

    Our kids are the most important assets we have for building the future economy, and it is essential to make sure rural kids growing up in poverty can reach their full potential. Investing in rural children and their families is critical not just to the long-term success of our rural communities, but to our global competitiveness. Studies indicate that we spend an estimated $500 billion each year on expenses related to child poverty. Imagine if we could use even a fraction of that in smarter ways to serve our children.

    Since President Obama convened the White House Rural Council four years ago, we have made tremendous progress in creating new opportunities for rural businesses and communities to thrive and grow. As these opportunities expand, we now need to ensure that they are available to everyone. To that end, the White House Rural Council convened last week to explore how the Administration can better coordinate and target efforts so that rural families living in poverty have the best chance to climb into the middle class.

  • Local Food, Local Places: Bringing Expertise and Creative Thinking to Community Economic Development

    Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

    The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative.  

  • Promoting Rural Opportunity by Expanding Access to Broadband

    President Obama has made expanding broadband access a key priority throughout his Administration. He launched the ConnectED Initiative in June 2013, ensuring that 99% of our students will have high-speed broadband in their classrooms by 2017 and that broadband infrastructure will reach rural areas. The White House Rural Council has supported these efforts to expand access to affordable broadband networks to support community benefits such as education, health care, and job creation.

    Just this week, the White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA members are rural, independent, telecommunication companies from across America. NTCA advocates on behalf of these companies to ensure that they can drive innovation and deliver service throughout rural America. Our dialogue was focused on NTCA’s Smart Rural Community initiative, which recognizes a small selection of NTCA members who are exceptionally serving their communities by using their broadband systems to improve health care infrastructure, education, government services, among other needs.

    White House Rural Council hosted a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association

    The White House Rural Council hosts a dialogue with members of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association. (Photo courtesy of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association)

  • Women Are the Past, Present, and Future of American Agriculture

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    From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors, and to feed the world.

    The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers. These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

    Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture. We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians, and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policymakers and standard bearers. Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.