January 12, 2018

Op-Ed Column: Planning for a Bigger, Bolder Tomorrow


As farmers and ranchers, we plan. We plan for the upcoming growing season. We plan for good times and the challenging times. We’re always looking toward the future and how we can improve. We should expect our government to do the same.

President Donald Trump addressed farmers and ranchers from across the country at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention this past week, the first time the president has done so in more than 25 years. He focused on the importance of rural prosperity and wagered his support of the recommendations developed by the Rural Prosperity Task Force, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The recommendations revolve around five key indicators: Connectivity for Rural America, Quality of Life Improvement, Support for a Rural Workforce, Technological Innovation, and Economic Development.

Secretary Perdue believes rural America hasn't had the tools necessary to keep pace and that this plan will solve problems and restore a rural America that is prosperous for years to come.

The timing of these recommendations couldn’t be better. As the Missouri Department of Agriculture continues to build out our strategic plan, MORE; we are thrilled to see how well these federal priorities align with our statewide initiatives.

The impetus for MORE is to enhance the quality of life in rural Missouri, to ensure that our communities are vibrant and healthy, attracting our young people back to them. To me, that means improving education, technology, healthcare, business and, in general, the essence of small town America. 

I am an ardent supporter of affordable, high quality broadband internet, and have vowed to fight for this service until every last mile in Missouri has adequate access. While there is no single silver bullet that will “make rural America great again,” the recommendations by the task force all tie directly back to moving the needle on this critical issue: high speed, high capacity internet.

In order for people to want to live in rural America, they need access to quality health services, school systems and housing. Connectivity paves the way to better options and opportunities. The rural workforce has consistently been left behind. Connectivity to training and tools is vitally important.

Farmers must increase output to create higher quality and higher quantity of food to feed our neighbors and our world. Connectivity-powered technology makes those advancements readily attainable. Rural communities need to be invigorated with energy, stronger businesses and dynamic growth. Connectivity brings ideas to life.

We in rural America need to continue to speak up and reach out, because this report shows that we are being listened to.  Much work lies ahead, but we are used to hard work.   If we continue to pull together in the same direction, we will take our rural communities to the next level and ensure the legacy of agriculture is carried on for generations to come.