"I think most rural Americans would be fearful of the possibility [Obama's] not really interested in them. He comes out of Chicago and is a big-city politician. Rural Americans probably aren't looking for a lot out of this administration. ... They can see for themselves who won. And it didn't seem to be rural America in this last election."However, Berkes notes that Obama "pledged to hold a 'rural summit' and deliver a package of rural initiatives to Congress in his first 100 days as president," and made himself the Democratic front-runner "by campaigning for fundamental change in farm and rural policy in the state of Iowa," as described by Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs. (Photo of Obama in Iowa by David Lienemann, The Associated Press)
While urban and suburban Americans may think of rural Americans as farmers, fewer than 2 percent actually make their living mainly from agriculture, and there is conflict between some of them and those who want the federal government to do more for rural development, which Berkes explores in a second story. "Many rural Americans are challenged by a rural economy that tanked sooner and deeper than the nation's economy," he says in his first report. "High energy prices have made food and long commutes more expensive. And most rural places are losing population."
Obama often spoke about making high-speed Internet access more available in rural areas. That should be at the top of his rural agenda, said Debby Kozikowski of RuralVotes, a partisan group that ran ads criticizing McCain. "Internet access is not just for watching YouTube," she told Berkes. "It's an instrument of commerce and education." Gimpel says cutting the capital-gains tax on small businesses would help rural economies, and Dee Davis of the Kentucky-based Center for Rural Strategies, below, has bigger ideas.
"He believes rural places should become part of the national economic recovery plan," Berkes reports. "Davis foresees rural areas focused on the renewable energy and alternative fuels the nation seeks. He envisions new markets tying local farmers to towns and cities close by. He also proposes a system for rewarding rural areas financially if the market in "pollution credits" results in the construction of power plants that pollute rural skies." (Read more) To listen to the story, click here.