Archive for June, 2011
White House Rural Council to Strengthen Rural Communities
On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order that establishes a Rural Advisory Council. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, will chair the council, which includes representatives from 25 executive branch departments, agencies and offices.
The council will be responsible for providing recommendations to the president on investment in rural areas and improving the quality of life for rural Americans. The council will identify and facilitate rural economic opportunities associated with energy development, outdoor recreation and other conservation related activities. The council will coordinate with a variety of rural interests, including agricultural groups, small businesses and state, local and tribal governments.
The council will advise the White House on rural issues, including:
- Jobs: Improve job training and workforce development in rural America.
- Agriculture: Expand markets for agriculture, including regional food systems and exports.
- Access to Credit: Increase opportunity by expanding access to capital in rural communities and fostering local investment.
- Innovation: Promote the expansion of biofuels production capacity and community based renewable energy projects.
- Networks: Develop high-growth regional economies by capitalizing on inherent regional strengths.
- Health Care: Improve access to quality health care through expansion of health technology systems.
- Education: Increase post-secondary enrollment rates and completion for rural students.
- Broadband: Support the president’s plan to increase broadband opportunities in rural America.
- Infrastructure: Coordinate investment in critical infrastructure.
- Ecosystem markets: Expand opportunities for conservation, outdoor opportunities and economic growth on working lands and public lands.
According to the USDA press release, the “The White House Rural Council will coordinate programs across government to encourage public-private partnerships to promote further economic prosperity and quality of life in rural communities nationwide.”
AFBF Rural Development Conference Features Successful State Programs
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently hosted its Rural Development Conference for state Farm Bureau staff and leaders to learn about successful community development initiatives that can be adopted by state and county Farm Bureaus nationwide.
The meeting, held in cooperation with the Kentucky and Indiana Farm Bureaus, took place at the Kentucky Farm Bureau office in Louisville, KY. More than 65 people from 20 state Farm Bureaus participated.
Two of the sessions featured presentations from the states on successful community building initiatives they and county Farm Bureaus have undertaken. These community strengthening projects increase Farm Bureau’s visibility and relevancy to the broader (non-ag) community.
The 16 presentations included topics on local food, agritourism, health, community building and beginning farmer initiatives.
Indiana Farm Bureau last year hosted a series of boot camps for farmers’ market managers to inform them about liability issues, vendor recruitment and tips on market management to keep it running smoothly. Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Certified Roadside Market Program is for farm-oriented markets with a permanent structure that focus on the sale of locally grown products or agritourism, host activities to educate consumers about agriculture or the role of agriculture in Kentucky.
Tennessee Fresh connects consumers to information about where their food comes from, how it was grown and who produced it, while retail agriculture sales support the local economy.
The New Hampshire Buy Local and NHMade programs also focus on connecting the consumer directly to the producer by encouraging reinvesting one’s purchasing power within the community and state.
Virginia Farm Bureau, through its Virginia FAIRS Cooperative Development Center, hosts regional workshops to offer technical assistance for applications for USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant and Rural Energy for America Program.
Jo Davies County Farm Bureau in Illinois explained its collaboration with agriculture, tourism and government stakeholders to promote agritourism. The program is a strategic opportunity to provide agricultural education while driving economic development.
North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Healthy Living for a Lifetime initiative, a mobile health clinic, offers free screenings such as blood pressure, body mass index, bone density measurements, cholesterol and glucose.
Through Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 400 M*A*S*H (Medical Application of Science for Health) camp, high school students spend 2 weeks during the summer learning about health care careers. They shadow such diverse medical activities as open-heart surgery, labor and delivery, speech therapy, dentistry, anesthesiology, embalming, biomechatronics (fabrication of prostheses) and emergency response.
Illinois’ Farm Bureau’s Rural Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to nursing students to encourage them to meet the needs of primary care in rural Illinois.
Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Business Success Seminars are one-day sessions that encourage entrepreneurs to explore the key elements of developing successful business models, provoke strategic thinking and clarify a business’ road to success, as well as how to find appropriate funding and talent.
Florida’s Strong Farms, Strong Communities is a new initiative by which Farm Bureau members help strengthen small towns and urban areas by participating in community events, supporting youth activities and highlighting agriculture to illustrate what a vital role it plays in Florida’s economic success.
Michigan has renamed their Department of Agriculture Rural Development to focus on new agricultural and community economic opportunities. Michigan Farm Bureau is assisting them with the specifics of what that new mission will entail. Some ideas may include promoting business development and economic gardening, and establishing farm markets at Park-N-Rides and at state park campgrounds.
Tillamook County (Oregon) Farm Bureau hosted a Community Conversation a year ago for residents to inventory their community’s resources and develop shared goals for what they want their community to look like in the future. The committees formed that January evening address four critical issues: roads, youth activities, downtown revitalization and the need for a slaughter and rendering plant. The committees are still meeting and progressing with those projects.
Louisiana Farm Bureau is partnering with the Louisiana State University’s AgCenter on the Louisiana Young Ag Producers (LaYAPP) program to introduce high school juniors and seniors to careers in food and fiber production and to encourage them to consider agriculture as a career. LaYAPP is a one-year, intensive classroom and hands-on, mentor-based experience to address the trend of the rising average age of farmers and ranchers.
Farm Bureau’s focus on and involvement in projects to improve the quality of life where our members live and work fulfills our mission to “enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities.”
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