"But as resources become tighter, there's a growing need for evidence-based analysis of where scarce public and private funds should be invested for greatest returns. This challenge is compounded by the fact that rural communities are so diverse," adds the Penn State ag economist. "One-size-fits-all recommendations don't work."
Key Rural Summit policy issues
There are some Farm Bill certainties. Givens are a safety net for farmers, conservation and transportation funding. But the U.S. Senators on the panel discussions constantly referred to agriculture with a broader brush.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), for instance, defined agriculture as a rural community, a larger common denominator than farming. "Rural America must be a high priority," she noted. "A strong rural development sector is very important" for expanded rural development loans, opportunities for biofuels, broadband communications, healthcare and etc.
Capitalizing on rural development is crucial, noted Mark Begich Alaska and chairman of the summit host Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. "Being able to capitalize businesses that help move fresh fruit and vegetables and increase access is important."
"We have to be very choosy about what we fund in this economy, added Senator Heidi Heitkamp (N.Dak.). "Some things we can do today we won't be able to do tomorrow. We must focus on value-added fuel, fiber, and food. We need more 'bridges to the urban sector."