When it comes to food, 85 percent is grown in rural areas, Smith writes for the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell, Mont. "Billions of dollars’ worth of rural American agricultural products are exported around the globe each year, and hundreds of thousands of trees are planted on farmland for sustainability."
Energy and water are other keys, she writes. "Large scale energy production facilities including fossil fuels, hydro, solar, wind, biofuels and others are often located in rural communities. . . . Rural residents are often upstream stewards of rivers, lakes, and other waterways that have a profound impact on our downstream neighbors."
Tourism is another big part of rural America. "Whether it’s our national parks, the lure of a back road, or the desire to ski, bike, hike, fish, hunt, kayak or just get away from it all, rural areas are big recreation destinations," Smith writes. "Our national parks alone host millions of Americans and overseas visitors every year, and U.S. rural tourism continues to grow robustly."
Another important thing to remember is that rural America supplies more than its share of military recruits and veterans, she writes, though her numbers are off base. Bill Bishop clarified the numbers in the Daily Yonder in 2011, and the Economic Research Service of the Agriculture Department has the latest data.