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Experts Discuss Rural Needs, Will Presidential Candidates Listen?

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If you like my column for its focus on rural issues, you may enjoy a gander at the Daily Yonder, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news and analysis website for rural affairs in America. This week, the article that stuck out to me was a collection of perspectives from experts answering what they think rural America needs. They pulled answers from rural advocates all over the United States and received a wealth of great advice for presidential candidates as well as citizens.

As you might expect, there was talk about the commonly discussed players in rural development: broadband infrastructure, jobs (noting that no candidate for president has a clue how to create jobs in rural America), educational investment, healthcare investment (highlighting the shortage of rural healthcare workers and the gap between urban and rural life expectancies), climate change (affecting rural communities disproportionally), arts investment, and citizenship. But I was surprised by a couple of interesting topics brought up.

Bill Bynum wrote about the disproportionate investment by banks in rural areas, even when those banks are being held up by rural dollars, they tend to take the money and place it back in urban centers due to limitations of the Community Reinvestment Act. You can see the effects of this if you consider the number of locals who bank with larger corporate banks, such as Wells Fargo, which provide little or no investment into the Baldwin community.

Another less popular view was discussed by Neil Ritchie that our farm policy has not kept up with post-cold-war thinking. He posits that America’s farming policy needs a shift in perspective from “feed the world” to helping our people thrive and conserving soil and water resources. This idea has been present for a while in the conservation community, but I think it’s receiving more attention as trade wars have made farmers realize the market in their back yard is more dependable than a larger market on the other side of the world.

It would surprise the handknit socks off of me if the presidential candidates were able to come up with a nuanced view of rural America. But it would also be a delight. As the super-long democratic primary season continues, we have plenty of time to see such nuanced discussion and education for the candidates. So I’ll continue to hope they make time for it. And I will be delighted if I have to go pick up my socks.

You can find me at the Baldwin Bulletin office for two more weeks. I am always happy to receive your feedback and comments.

If you’re interested in reading the Daily Yonder’s full analysis of what rural America needs, visit the url below.

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