President Biden is committed to ensuring federal resources and opportunities that can benefit rural America actually reach rural America. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching the Rural Partners Network (RPN), a new whole-of-government effort led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to transform the way federal agencies partner with rural places to create economic opportunity.
The Biden-Harris Administration is investing historic resources in rural communities so they can continue to compete and succeed in the 21st century. The President’s American Rescue Plan provided billions of dollars to rural workers, local governments, and small businesses to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment in affordable high-speed internet, clean drinking water, clean and reliable electricity, and better roads and bridges for rural communities across America. However, just making resources available is not enough—the federal government must better serve rural communities, so that they can take full advantage of these unprecedented opportunities.
To transform how the federal government partners with and delivers economic opportunity for rural communities across the United States, RPN will bring the federal government to rural America. New federal field staff will be placed in more than 25 rural communities in multiple U.S. states, Tribal Nations and territories to help local leaders navigate and access the federal resources they need to build a strong and vibrant economy. Through this unique partnership, RPN staff will also identify challenges preventing rural communities from accessing federal support to inform the work of the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council, a whole-of-government task force that will ensure rural places are prioritized in Washington. RPN communities will have a new direct line to D.C. to foster a federal government that delivers for all rural communities.
To begin making the federal government work better for rural America, the Rural Partners Network is:
Helping rural communities identify and leverage critical resources with the partnership of on-the-ground federal staff.
To boost local capacity, the Biden Administration will deploy new RPN staff to help communities access the full breadth of federal resources for community-led economic development, working in close coordination with: local leaders in government, business, and community organizations; federal agency field offices; existing federal efforts such as Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization and the President’s Justice40 Initiative; and staff of the Regional Commissions. RPN Directors will be placed in states, territories and Tribal Nations to coordinate RPN activities, and RPN Liaisons will be placed in selected community networks to work with local leaders on an economic development vision and to secure the funds to make it a reality.
While these staff will be funded by USDA, they will have a whole-of-government mandate: help rural communities create economic opportunity by leveraging resources from all federal departments and agencies. To support this effort, 13 key agencies are dedicating a D.C.-based point person or team to serve as a front door for RPN staff and communities as they navigate the resources available across the federal government. These agencies participate in regular convenings of the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council, co-led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and USDA.
Today, the Biden Administration is announcing the launch of this new program in selected community networks this year. In cohort 1, by the end of May, RPN staff will be on the ground supporting selected community networks in the following states and Tribal Nations:
- San Carlos Apache Tribe
- Tohono O’odham Nation
- Cocopah Indian Tribe
- Southwest Georgia Regional Commission: Counties of Mitchell, Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Seminole, Miller, Terrell, Thomas, and Worth
- Ben Hill County and City of Fitzgerald
- Emanuel County and City of Twin City
- Fulton County Partnership*: Cities of Fulton, Hickman, and Cayce
- Kentucky Highlands: Counties of Bell*, Perry*, Harlan*, Leslie*, Letcher*, Whitley, Knox, Clay*
- Washington County Economic Alliance: Counties of Washington, Bolivar, Sunflower, and Leflore
- Greater Grenada-Lake District: Counties of Grenada and Yalobusha
- North Delta Planning and Development Collaborative: Counties of Coahoma, Quitman, and Tunica
- New Mexico
- Northern New Mexico Pathways: Counties of San Miguel, Taos, Mora, and Colfax
- Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments: Counties of Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna
- Mesilla Valley Partnership: Doña Ana County
*Priority Energy Community as determined by the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.
These states and community networks were selected by USDA based on quantitative and qualitative factors, including levels of economic distress and readiness of the communities and local stakeholder organizations to participate in RPN. As part of the selection process, USDA conducted community engagement sessions with local community leaders. The communities themselves determined the composition of their networks.
In addition to this first cohort, RPN will expand to Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Tribal communities in Alaska in a second cohort to launch by the end of August. If provided the support from Congress requested in the President’s FY23 Budget, RPN will continue expanding to ultimately serve all 50 states, as well as more Tribal Nations and territories.
Empowering rural communities to foster a federal government that better delivers for rural America. RPN field staff will be tasked with feeding key information to federal agencies on community needs and barriers to accessing federal resources. Agencies will then take this information and use it to drive policy changes that address the unique challenges faced by rural communities. As a result, RPN will not only support selected RPN community networks but inform changes that make the federal government better deliver for all rural communities.
Through this new direct line between rural communities and Washington, D.C., the Biden Administration will change business as usual and work across agencies to coordinate technical assistance to rural communities, share rural data and measures of success, and align grant requirements. Members of Congress across the political spectrum have called for this whole-of-government approach, including U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto, Joni Ernst, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Grassley, and Mark Kelly, and U.S. Representatives Angie Craig, Dan Newhouse, Cindy Axne, Adrian Smith, Tom O’Halleran, and Randy Feenstra.
The federal agencies and regional commissions participating in the Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council include:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of the Interior
- Department of Labor
- Department of Transportation
- Department of the Treasury
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Small Business Administration
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Delta Regional Authority
- Denali Commission
- Northern Border Regional Commission
Creating new whole-of-government resources for rural communities. Agencies will contribute to whole-of-government rural economic development resource guides and other informational material that will help all rural communities better identify and access federal funds. Agencies will also proactively conduct outreach to rural communities and rural leaders to disseminate information, offer technical assistance support, and seek input regarding the economic development barriers they face and support they need.