Issue Position: Rural Communities
"We are at that critical and urgent moment. If Washington continues policies that work against America's family farmers, our rural communities will fall further behind and so will America. But if we reject the politics that has shut ordinary folks out, we can create a new story for rural America The dreams of rural Americans are familiar to all Americans to make a good living, to raise a healthy and secure family, and to leave our children a future of opportunity. It's time for real leadership for rural America to extend that American dream. That's the dream of opportunity that I've spent my life fighting for. And that's what our rural agenda will do."
Barack Obama, Speech in Fairfax, IA, October 16, 2007
Family farmers are being squeezed: Farm consolidation has made it harder for mid-size family farmers to get fair prices for their products and compete on the open market.
Rural communities are often left behind: Rural communities often struggle to attract capital because of lack of infrastructure and remote distances. There is less access to quality doctors, and schools have trouble recruiting teachers.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan
Ensure Economic Opportunity For Family Farmers
* Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Obama and Biden will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. They will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers not large corporate agribusiness. They will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations.
* Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms: Obama is a strong supporter of a packer ban. When meatpackers own livestock they can manipulate prices and discriminate against independent farmers. Obama and Biden will strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and transparency in prices.
* Regulate CAFOs: Obama's Environmental Protection Agency will strictly regulate pollution from large CAFOs, with fines for those that violate tough standards. Obama also supports meaningful local control.
* Establish Country of Origin Labeling: Obama supports immediate implementation of the Country of Origin Labeling law so that American producers can distinguish their products from imported ones.
* Encourage Organic and Local Agriculture: Obama and Biden will help organic farmers afford to certify their crops and reform crop insurance to not penalize organic farmers. He also will promote regional food systems.
* Encourage Young People to Become Farmers: Obama and Biden will establish a new program to identify and train the next generation of farmers. They will also provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.
* Partner with Landowners to Conserve Private Lands: Obama and Biden will increase incentives for farmers and private landowners to conduct sustainable agriculture and protect wetlands, grasslands, and forests.
Support Rural Economic Development
* Support Small Business Development: Obama and Biden will provide capital for famers to create value-added enterprises, like cooperative marketing initiatives and farmer-owned processing plants. They also will establish a small business and micro-enterprise initiative for rural America.
* Connect Rural America: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that rural Americans have access to a modern communications infrastructure. They will modernize an FCC program that supports rural phone service so that it promotes affordable broadband coverage across rural America as well.
* Promote Leadership in Renewable Energy: Obama and Biden will ensure that our rural areas continue their leadership in the renewable fuels movement. This will transform the economy, especially in rural America, which is poised to produce and refine more American biofuels and provide more wind power than ever before, and create millions of new jobs across the country.
Improve Rural Quality Of Life
* Combat Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine use has increased 156 percent nationwide since 1996. Obama has a long record of fighting the meth epidemic. As President, he and Joe Biden will continue the fight to rid our communities of meth and offer support to help addicts heal.
* Improve Health Care: Rural health care providers often get less money from Medicare and Medicaid for the very same procedure performed in urban areas. Obama and Biden will work to ensure a more equitable Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement structure. They will attract providers to rural America by creating a loan forgiveness program for doctors and nurses who work in underserved rural areas. They support increasing rural access to care by promoting health information technologies like telemedicine.
* Improve Rural Education: Obama and Biden will provide incentives for talented individuals to enter the teaching profession, including increased pay for teachers who work in rural areas. Obama and Biden will create a Rural Revitalization Program to attract and retain young people to rural America. Obama and Biden will increase research and educational funding for Land Grant colleges.
* Upgrade Rural Infrastructure: Obama and Biden will invest in the core infrastructure, roads, bridges, locks, dams, water systems and essential air service that rural communities need.
Barack Obama's Record
A Record on Rural Issues: In 2006, Obama supported legislation that would have reversed $2 billion in cuts for U.S. Department of Agriculture programs including conservation, rural development, nutrition, and forestry programs that are vitally important to our rural communities. In addition, he supported legislation providing full funding for agricultural programs that were authorized by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill. Obama has supported funding for Illinois communities through the Rural Community Empowerment Program, which includes the establishment of rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities, as well as other federal programs that maintain and build upon the assets of rural communities. Obama has worked on numerous efforts in the U.S. Senate to increase access to and use of renewable fuels, including corn-based and cellulosic ethanol. He cosponsored the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2006 to make grants to state agriculture departments for direct economic loss payments to eligible small businesses. He cosponsored legislation that became law to combat the scourge of methamphetamines. Obama also introduced legislation to remedy years of discrimination against black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.