Rural America: Numbered?

From USAToday:

What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

WASHINGTON — When the top cheerleader for rural America has some harsh words for the people he represents, it might be time to take notice.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered a dire warning to the 51 million farmers, ranchers and other residents inhabiting rural America before a farm group in Washington last month. His message: Rural Americans are becoming less relevant in the country’s increasingly urban landscape and unless they find a way to reverse the trend their voice will continue to fall on deaf ears in Washington and around the world.

“Unless we respond and react, the capacity of rural America and its power and its reach will continue to decline,” Vilsack said. “Rural America, with a shrinking population, is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we better recognize that, and we had better begin to reverse it.”

In the past four years, he said, more than 50% of rural counties have seen their population decline.

Vilsack pointed to rural America’s diminishing impact as a reason Congress was unable to pass a farm bill in 2012 — during an election year. More than 80% of lawmakers are not representing rural areas, making it an uphill battle for those outside of urban areas to be heard in Washington by senators and representatives who may not fully understand or appreciate the role played by agriculture in the United States.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • eric

    It’s a good question to keep an eye on. With a decrease in political power comes more laws making things much more difficult on farmers. It’s still a long ways away, but it could have consequences on our food supply in the future. An increasing urban population with decreasing agriculture.

  • Bob
  • Mike M

    One more dead-beat Liberal pro-corporation hack: : Vilsack has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for large industrial farms and genetically modified crops
    ;[21]
     as Iowa state governor, he originated the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, effectively blocking local communities from regulating where genetically engineered crops would be grown; When will American Liberals ever learn that corporate socialism is not the same as favoritism in the public interest? Damn you liberals in the name of Christ.

  • Jag

    I didn’t see too many conservatives on the lines at Occupy or in any other group protesting the corporate ownership of America. Corporations own and operate us all, left and right both, but to my knowledge the only ones doing anything about it are liberals, because we’re the ones not enamored with capitalism as “God’s favored economic system.”

    The Farm Bill is corporate welfare. While there are worthy components, for the most part it is a redistribution of wealth upwards, from the working people of this country to millionaire farmers and large corporate farms. It is symptomatic of our governance system as a whole, in which our representatives are for sale to the highest bidder, and most of us don’t have enough money to even get a bidder number.

  • Jonathan

    I’d rather hear from Joel Salatin or Wendell Berry than Tom Vilsack on this topic.

  • Mike M

    Amen Jag & Jonathan. Ironically, Wendell Berry is a professing Christian while Tom Vilsack is not. For more information on the desire to change our food supply from the current corporate socialism to a more natural, God-given approach, check out the Land Institute.

  • Mike M

    Jag: Ron Paul was a huge success at Occupy so you may need to change your perception. Occupy is a demonstration against the “Us” (our government and 1% of the filfthy rich who make trillions off of taxpayer money) vs. “Them” (the rest of us, including the millions of middle-class pushed into poverty). Did you ever notice that the police don’t beat the rich?

  • cw

    With the improvement and growth of machinery and bigger farmers (or corporations) swallowing up smaller landholders, of course the population of rural (read agriculturally based) counties is shrinking. If you count noses I guess we’re less politically relevant. If you look at food supplies on grocery shelves or the lack thereof, I’d say the American farmer is very relevant. What most of the farming families are (and being from KS and living in IA I know a lot of them) is too busy to lobby and protest or become politically savvy. You’d think Tom Vilsack would be the advocate instead of yelling at his constituency to get it together and get more relevant. Isn’t that his job?


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