Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New administration needs to understand multitude of challenges facing rural America, writes ag lawyer

Jennifer Zwagerman
Rural America, which was largely responsible for electing Donald Trump president, expects the new president to deliver on his promise to "Make America Great Again," Jennifer Zwagerman, associate director of the Agricultural Law Center and director of Career Development at Drake University Law School, writes for The Conversation. "The administration’s first challenge lies with figuring out what rural areas need. That’s a difficult task because there’s not just one 'rural voice,' unified on all issues."

"Rural communities relying on recreation tourism may support increased environmental regulations while those relying on farming or manufacturing may be opposed," she writes. "Farmers may support international trade agreements that open markets to crops, while those in manufacturing fear the loss of jobs. The concerns of rural West Virginia will not be the same as those of rural Wyoming."

A good start in giving rural areas a national voice was Trump picking former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she writes. "Many Americans may feel like this particular Cabinet nomination doesn’t impact their everyday lives, but that is a misconception. USDA is responsible for areas beyond agriculture, including food, nutrition and rural development. Rural America is important to all Americans because it is a primary source for inexpensive and safe food, affordable energy, clean drinking water and accessible outdoor recreation."

"In nominating Perdue to head the USDA, the key agency charged with supporting rural America, Trump has picked someone with strong agricultural and rural roots," she writes. "Perdue has years of experience in the agriculture and trade sectors. As governor of Georgia, he oversaw a state in which 108 of 159 counties are designated rural because they have populations under 35,000."

"But rural America is about more than farming," she writes. "Rural communities are also the home of many of the country’s energy production resources, such as coal mining, renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, wind and solar energy, and gas and oil production. Approximately 20 percent of the manufacturing industry is located in rural America.What rural America demanded with this election is a seat at the table. Getting one may be a challenge considering approximately 80 percent of elected officials do not represent rural areas. What they and the new president need to understand is that strong rural communities benefit us all."

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