What If Rural Really Mattered?

My War on Poverty desk, that’s what I call it. The Center doesn’t go in for fancy office furniture. My desk is an old government surplus model with a metal tag that says “property of US government.” I think it was discarded while the Nixon administration was dismantling the War on Poverty and Don Ralston and Marty Strange were founding the Center for Rural Affairs.

My desk reminds me that many amazing, brilliant, dedicated people preceded me at the Center. Most of them have forgotten more about fighting for rural America than I’ve yet learned.

It reminds me that working here means being in service to others, giving a voice to those in rural America who need it most. And letting them know they are not alone in confronting the stern challenges many rural communities face.

Thankfully, they are not alone. This summer, the Center commissioned a poll of rural voters in 25 Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeastern states. Nearly 9-in-10 rural voters polled believe the small town way of life is worth fighting for and protecting. If you agree, if you think government can do more to create a better future for small town America, you are definitely not alone.

I was at my desk when Midge, a Moringa farmer and sea salt producer in the Florida Keys, called me because she read my letter about Value Added Producer Grants in the Key West Sun-Sentinel. She hoped to apply and share the information with others.

I was at my desk when Leon, a small farmer from near Hattiesburg, MS, called to discuss his difficulties accessing several USDA programs. He wasn’t calling for his benefit, but because he hoped the programs could be improved for others.

I was also at my desk when my high school principal, Dick Heimer, of Sheffield, IA, contacted me because he read my guest opinion in the Mason City Globe Gazette about the importance of healthcare reform to rural America’s small towns. He said he was proud of his former student, found my arguments compelling, and intended to share them with others.

These and many other similar conversations have given me a glimpse of what it would look like if rural America really mattered as it should. In that America, more people like Midge, Leon, and Dick would know that others face the same challenges they face. They’d know that by speaking up we can create a better future for our families, our small towns, and our nation.

If you’d like to join them, making a call to the Center for Rural Affairs is a pretty good start. When you call, feel free to ask me how my desk is holding up. I’m at 402.687.2103 ext. 1010.