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Community Grand Opening Coop Month 2016Community Grand Opening Coop Month 2016Photo Credit - Cooperative Network  In the wake of the 2016 election, political observers have paid a significant amount of attention to rural Americans who, as a group, had a deep impact on the results. Now that the election is over, it’s time to ask what types of policies would make the most positive impact for people who live in rural places.

In a recent piece published in Choices Magazine, I join my coauthor Mary Ahearn in examining the role that rural Americans had in the election, economic and societal trends in rural places, and pointing out some areas of public investments that could make a significant impact in rural places, such as expanded broadband. We conclude that now is the time to empower people in their businesses and their communities through the cooperative business model and other strategies.

The diverse economic profile of rural America makes it clear that solutions to rural development challenges are going to come from multiple policy areas including, and well beyond, farm income and price support policies. Although “rural” and “agriculture” are not synonymous, many rural places continue to rely on the agriculture economy and the reverse is even more common: the vast majority of farm households rely on the non-farm rural economy for off-farm income opportunities and the essential quality of life factors such as health care, education and entertainment. So it only makes sense that a renewed rural coalition of agricultural and non-agricultural stakeholders look for ways to work together on a rural agenda.

Beyond empowering people in their businesses through the use of cooperatives, policy makers need to look at old and new ways to develop leadership and meaningful opportunities for rural citizens to participate in the policy and investment decisions that affect their communities.

To read more about the rural implications and policy ideas in light of the 2016 election, see the full piece here, published by Choices.

 

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