Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Policy Point Wednesday: Rural Policy and Urban Policy

The Rural Blog referred me to these interesting posts by Karl Stauber, President and CEO, Danville (VA) Regional Foundation.  As someone living in a decidedly urban environment who is mostly concerned with urban issues, it is easy to forget that  "Almost all of America’s water and much of its food and fiber come from rural regions of the U.S."

Stauber points out that in the last census, only four states list a majority of their population as living outside major metropolitan areas (which is the only measure the census offers for rural vs urban.)  He notes that many major metropolitan areas received outside subsidies and investments to stimulate growth, while rural America remains largely unsupported.  "For rural regions to produce what America needs, America must support rural opportunities.  But in the future, those opportunities must be different, focused on constantly creating competitive advantage rather than simply protecting old advantages. "

He goes on to suggest major changes in rural policy, including investing in specific regional strengths rather than "smokestack chasing."  "Employers, shoppers, patients, and air quality all behave in a regional context.  Rural communities must do the same.  Often federal and state policies make it harder for rural communities to behave regionally, encouraging competition over cooperation."  He points out that rural communities are often at a disadvantage when it comes to resources like education, transportation, and access to technology, making it even more difficult for them to have a voice in rural policy.

Ultimately, no matter where you live, decisions on rural policy affect people living in urban areas.  This video, by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries offers an excellent illustration of the relationship between policy, agriculture, urbanization, health and economics.

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