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Rural Community Development Spurs Growth

Posted by Richard Derksen, Office of the Chief Scientist in Research and Science
Jun 30, 2015

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Though many of us don’t see farmers every day, we certainly see and benefit from the products of their farms every day. Rural America makes many cameos in urban and suburban life, from the array of foods we eat to the sweaters our Olympic and sports champions wear and the batteries that power our cars. A recent White House blog states that although Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth. Infrastructure development, technological advancement and school improvement can contribute significantly to rural and community development strategies that could spur economic growth. USDA is committed to spreading the Nation’s prosperity to rural areas, and has a long history of funding programs aimed at promoting rural America.

Adequate infrastructure development enhances productivity and economic growth. Facilities for marketing, credit, and telecommunications, equipment for transportation, water, and energy all improve rural quality of life and connects rural America with the urban and global economies.  USDA continues to fund infrastructure investments designed to help grow rural businesses and spur economic growth through its Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program. Many studies have shown that areas with inadequate infrastructure lag in per capita income. Improved transportation infrastructure can significantly contribute to rural economic growth.

We have seen how influential technological developments in agriculture have been in driving growth and change in the farm sector. Since World War II, technological developments in agriculture have grown in leaps and bounds with advances in mechanization, increased availability of chemical inputs and animal and plant breeding technologies. This has spurred growth through productivity and increasing economies of scale. Rural communities can benefit from technological development. For example access to broadband internet technology has direct implications for the well-being of communities. Research suggests that broadband use fosters community involvement, enhances the provision of services such as health and education, and expands household income prospects through such activities as telework.  USDA continues to fund rural telecommunications infrastructure projects that have improved broadband service throughout rural America through programs such as the Community Connect Grant.

There continues to be considerable discussion regarding the vital roles that good schools and a well-educated population play in promoting sound, local economic and community development activities. Healthy and well fed kids are a precursor to improving a student’s education potential. USDA promotes local school wellness policy requirements programs through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act helps to foster nutrition and other school based activities that are designed to promote wellness in schools.

USDA’s continued commitment to spur growth in rural communities appears to be reaping rewards.  The rural community resurgence continues in earnest as rural communities capitalize on programs to improve their infrastructure, advance their technology and improve their schools.

Category/Topic: Research and Science