A new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Task Force on Agricultural and Rural Prosperity found that rural Americans working in agriculture still lack access to the electronic connectivity, technology, jobs, and businesses that improve quality of life. The report reveals the effects of the Great Recession (2007–2009) still permeate rural life, particularly for communities with high poverty rates, low educational attainment, and high unemployment.
To combat these detrimental effects, the report recommends reforms presented in five Calls to Action: electronic connectivity, quality of life, support for the workforce, technological innovation, and economic development. With improvements in each of these categories, the task force envisions “a rural America with world-class resources, tools, and support to build robust, sustainable communities for generations to come.”
U.S. President Donald Trump issued the executive order establishing the Task Force on Agricultural and Rural Prosperity in April 2017 to “identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes needed to help secure a prosperous future for rural America.” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue chairs the interagency task force.
To ensure the five Calls to Action are implemented, the task force recommends that President Trump establish a Federal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Meeting bi-annually, the Federal Commission would aim to ensure interagency coordination and cooperation for implementing reforms. The task force also recommends a Stakeholder Advisory Council to prioritize stakeholder participation and identify actions that will contribute to rural prosperity.
Many of the recommendations in the report target lack of access to electronic connectivity in rural communities as a major barrier to improving quality of life in rural areas. According to the report, electronic connectivity can improve access to economic markets, workforce development, technology, and enhanced quality of life. The task force recommends opening access to rural electronic connectivity for the 39 percent of the rural population lacking access to effective broadband, identified by the Federal Communications Commission.
According to the USDA, rural employment has rebounded less than half as quickly as urban employment after the Great Recession. The task force aims to support the workforce and increase employment growth by expanding training, apprenticeship, and education programs in rural communities to create an adaptable and skillful workforce.
According to Secretary Perdue, “rural America has struggled under burdensome regulations with no voice in Washington, but under President Trump’s leadership, and with the work of this task force, we can turn that around and restore rural prosperity once and for all.”