“It’s not just about farmers and ranchers for the State Departments of Agriculture. And it’s not just about rural communities for USDA Rural Development,” said Missouri Rural Development State Director Janie Dunning. Dunning and three other State Directors joined together to introduce Rural Development programs to the Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture (MASDA) in St. Louis recently.
“Farmers and ranchers will not succeed without a vibrant rural community where they can conduct business,” Dunning said. “Rural communities cannot survive without farmers to add to their economic growth.”
Colleen Callahan Illinois State Director, talked about the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and stressed the Obama Administration’s prioritization of renewable energy as a multi-layered economic benefit to the American economy. Renewable energy investments create jobs, increase capital investments in rural areas and reduce America’s dependence on non-domestic sources of energy.
“REAP also could stand for Re-Energizing Economies for America Program,” Callahan said. “There are a lot of growth opportunities related to renewable energy in rural communities.”
Minnesota State Director Colleen Landkamer outlined the benefits of leveraging Rural Development funds and technical assistance with funds and programs from State Departments of Agriculture. This type of collaboration and partnership creates sustainable agricultural-based business ventures, including food processing and local/regional food enterprises.
All State Directors stressed that strong partnerships with State Departments of Agriculture lead to meaningful results for both farmers and rural communities.
“You can benefit from us, we can benefit from you and most importantly, our farmers and rural communities will benefit more when the two of us work together,” Dunning said.
Kansas State Director, Patty Clark, reminded the audience that each rural community is unique and that no two state’s rural development efforts look the same.
“We are each structured to best meet the needs of our own rural communities,” Clark said. “Rural resource partners within each state must coordinate, cooperate and communicate to the benefit of the rural communities we serve. Partnership also ensures efficient and cost effective placement of the financial resources of each agency.”