Issue Position: Revitalizing Rural America
Chris Dodd wants to help rural families meet and overcome the challenges of rural life because he knows that for all our advances, our country's best hope in the 21st century lies in preserving the values and viability of the American Heartland and that every American benefits from the hard work of our family farmers and those living in rural America. As President, Chris Dodd will revitalize rural America by:
* Ensuring that family farmers and ranchers get a fair price and have access to a strong safety net
* Opening new markets to American agricultural products, enforcing existing trade agreements and ensuring that new trade agreements are fair and balanced
* Creating new opportunities for homegrown, renewable energy so that our future energy sources come from the Midwest and not the Middle East
* Incentivizing American businesses to bring new jobs to rural communities
* Ending the rural digital divide through a national rural broadband initiative
A Vibrant Farm Economy
An Agriculture Secretary Who Understands Rural America. Chris Dodd will appoint a Secretary of Agriculture with farming experiencesomeone that understands the needs of farmers and rural America.
Fair Price with a Strong Safety Net. While fighting to ensure that family farmers receive a fair price, Chris Dodd will maintain a strong safety net of farm programs that will support family farmers and ranchers, not corporate agribusiness.
Competitive Marketplaces. Chris Dodd will dedicate significant resources at the Department of Agriculture, Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to aggressively investigate allegations of anticompetitive practices and activity in the agricultural market. He will also strengthen USDA's oversight and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Fair and Balanced Trade. Chris Dodd will aggressively enforce current trade agreements, negotiate new ones that include labor and environmental standards, and stop foreign governments from manipulating their currency to lower the cost of doing business with America.
New Markets for Agricultural Goods. Chris Dodd will promote new opportunities for American farmers by opening up additional markets for our agricultural products worldwide beginning with Cuba.
The Safest Food Supply in the World. Chris Dodd will invest in our nation's infrastructure to ensure that food can be easily and safely transported. He will also invest in efforts to bolster local capacity to produce, process and distribute foods so that America's food supply is not vulnerable in times of national or global crises. Dodd supports country-of-origin labeling and rigorous inspection of imported products.
New Opportunities and New Beginnings. As President, Chris Dodd will work with his Secretary of Agriculture to create financial assistance plans for young farmers seeking to farm in sustainable ways.
Renewable Energy and Conservation
A Homegrown Energy Policy: Chris Dodd will extend and expand tax credits that encourage production and use of alternative energy sources and create a Renewable Energy Trust that will provide family farmers and ranchers with interest-free loans of up to $100,000 to develop or expand their capacity to produce biofuel plants or participate in wind projects. The Trust will also provide $1 billion in loan guarantees and grants to promote advances in production technology and bioscience.
Rural Jobs Tax Credit. Chris Dodd's Renewable Energy Rural Jobs Tax Credit will provide a corporate income credit to renewable energy-based businesses that start-up in or relocate to rural areas and create new jobs. Tax relief will also be offered for the construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of older buildings upon initial relocation or start-up.
Stewards of America's Land. As President, Chris Dodd will provide a tax credit of up to $3,000 to farmers and ranchers who enroll their land in carbon trading programs or re-appropriate working lands for hunting, fishing and wildlife preserves. He will also expand programs designed to assist farmers and ranchers in becoming more energy efficient and that provide grants, loans and loan guarantees to assist farmers in purchasing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements.
Universal, Affordable Health Care
Universal Healthcare. Chris Dodd's Universal HealthMart will eliminate the sensitivity of family farms to rising health care costs by providing high-quality comprehensive care at a price that is affordable to everyone. Offered to all Americans regardless of their employment status, previous medical condition, or ability to pay, Chris Dodd's Universal HealthMart will offer a variety of comprehensive plans to choose from and entitle every American to the same benefits and types of plans as Members of Congress.
Access to Care. Chris Dodd will tackle the problem of access to care by incentivizing health care providers to practice in rural communities through the federal student loan program, by raising Medicare reimbursement rates for all providers, and by launching a Community to Community Care initiative that will connect small hospitals with large ones and patients with providers through telemedicine.
Ending the Digital Divide
Broadband Across Rural America. As President, Chris Dodd will launch a Broadband for Rural America initiative that will provide $2 billion in loan guarantees and below-market rate loans for the construction and improvement of broadband facilities and equipment in rural America. He will also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make new spectrum available for wireless broadband services in rural areas. Chris Dodd knows that access to broadband brings new jobs.
Opportunity for All
Virtual Learning. The Dodd Education Plan will offer all public schools a chance to supplement their current course load with advanced or specialized courses online. A Virtual Learning Innovation Fund will grant funds to school districts, states, nonprofits and universities to create and make these courses available. Virtual courses will offer all students, regardless of geographic location, a chance to participate in advanced and supplemental course offerings like AP and foreign languages.
Community College for All. The Dodd plan will partner with states to subsidize in-state tuition at public community colleges for students earning credit towards an associate's degree. Chris Dodd will match dollar for dollar any tuition reduction offered by states up to 50% of the cost of tuition. If a state agrees to pay half the cost of a student's tuition, community college will become free for that student. The federal government will also provide low-cost bonds to expand community colleges' infrastructure.