For too long, Washington has ignored the many crises facing rural America, and the work we must do to unlock its potential. We have seen more and more young people leave the small towns they grew up in and love, not because they don’t want to stay, but because there are fewer and fewer jobs that pay a living wage. We have seen big agribusinesses consolidate, offering lower and lower prices to farmers until smaller farms are forced to close. As family farms disappear, so do the jobs and communities they support. We have seen schools, churches and community centers shut down, and once vibrant Main Streets become boarded up and deserted. As populations decline, essential services like hospitals and nursing homes shutter their doors, forcing rural Americans to drive for sometimes hours to receive adequate health care.
In addition to raising the minimum wage, making public college tuition-free, investing in infrastructure, and guaranteeing health care, we must do the following to protect and support our rural communities:
- Strengthen and expand enforcement of antitrust laws against agribusiness monopolies, so that food producers have a fairer share of market power to negotiate better prices and pay for their hard work.
- Reform agricultural subsidies so that more federal support goes to smaller- and mid-sized family farms, rather than that support going disproportionately to a handful of the largest producers.
- Increase funding for the National Health Service Corps and expand Community Health Centers, which provide health care services in medically underserved areas.
- Invest in rural broadband buildout and reinstate net neutrality rules, which have protected rural small businesses and internet users from predatory practices by telecommunications giants.
- Address the opioid crisis facing rural America.
- Fight for comprehensive immigration reform to create a fair and humane immigration system for the immigrants who contribute so much to rural America.