Back in Session: Senate Ag Committee emphasizes the importance of rural development

The Senate Ag Committee pledged to keep rural America in the forefront of the 2023 Farm Bill.

Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan said she was grateful to be heard.

“It really is wonderful to have you here today to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural development and energy programs as we prepare for the 2023 Farm Bill. The rural development and energy titles of the Farm Bill create good-paying jobs in rural communities, like my hometown in Claire in northern Michigan, and improve the quality of life for rural families. Every American deserves a great quality of life no matter where they live.”

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, Xochitl Torres Small emphasized what happens when rural development is at its best.

“The Farm Bill presents Congress with an opportunity to strengthen how rural development supports rural people who contribute to our nation’s nutrition, agriculture, forestry, and the overall economy. When rural development is at its best, we’re doing three key things: One is responding to a clear, local vision through partnerships; two, making it easy for communities to access our support no matter where they are; and three, addressing local challenges effectively through modern resilient infrastructure.

“Our newest program, the Real Partners Network, was designed with this local vision in mind, and the feedback so far from our pilot communities is outstanding. After extreme funding in eastern Kentucky, we were able to deepen our relationships with local housing providers, we were able to listen to the challenges, and then quickly respond to exercise flexibility in our regulations, and we were able to work with EPA on closing the wastewater access gap, also with Rural Water Association, which you’ll hear from later, as well as the state in order to respond to some of the key long-standing challenges that communities are facing.

“Rural people also deserve ease of access through streamlined applications and technical assistance, which help communities get support no matter how small or understaffed they are. Easier access to federal support is at its core about modernizing rural development. When rural development is at its best, kids have more opportunities, and they know they matter no matter where they live. When rural development is at its best, we’re lifting up a local vision, and I know we can agree that when rural development is at its best, rural people prosper so that all of America can.”

Several rural organizations spoke at the meeting, including one energy provider who shared the importance of government grants and loans, saying rural communities were left behind years ago when cities began providing power.