In Case You Missed It: Here’s What They’re Saying About the Senate Ag Hearing on Rural Quality of Life

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, and Senator John Boozman (R-AK), Ranking Member, held a hearing on opportunities and challenges for the rural care economy.  

“As we have heard from our witnesses today, the care economy in rural America is important and has potential to grow. Whether that’s childcare, elder care, or healthcare – mental, physical, and behavioral – our rural families’ ability to access quality-of-life care is key to economic prosperity for all of us,” said Senator Stabenow. “There is a lot of great work already being done on the ground. And I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship with USDA as we work to improve access to quality care services at all stages of life.” 

“Health care, elder care, child care, and behavioral care, among others, are critical to rural America—they allow families to live their entire lives in the place they want to call home,” said Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small, USDA Rural Development. “The benefits of connecting rural communities to the health resources of larger ones cannot be understated—it saves transportation time and child care time rural residents, opens up access to providers where one might not be available, and increases affordability.” 

“Although it faces many obstacles today, the rural care economy has potential to grow alongside the creativity and resilience that characterizes rural America. However, USDA programs and funds play a critical role in supporting the rural care economy. As the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee looks to the next Farm Bill, addressing pain points in the rural care economy with sustainable, bipartisan solutions is key. This is how we build back better as one country,” said former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, One Country Project. 

“Farm parents have consistently said –‘if America wants farms and farm families, we need help and support with childcare, eldercare and health insurance,” said Dr. Shoshanah Inwood, Assistant Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. “We need people-centered policies and programs to be the foundation for supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers, for building prosperous vibrant rural communities, and for ensuring the nation’s food, fiber, and fuel supply.” 

“During conversations on weather, commodities, the increased price of fertilizer and diesel, bank loan payments, and how to deal with the end of legacy ranches and farms as children are not returning to take the operations over, mental health check-ins covertly happen,” saidDr. Joseph Carrica III, Chief Executive Officer at Southeast Health Group. “As a result, this summer we created a safe space in Rocky Ford, Colorado where we offer free coffee, doughnuts and conversation two days a week.” 

“Unfortunately, though, for many rural residents today, living in rural areas means fewer opportunities for good health, increased barriers to timely access to affordable and high-quality health care, and more limited access to the basic infrastructure necessary to participate in our current economic and social systems. Altogether, these rural-specific challenges are costing lives and limiting the prosperity of our entire nation,” said Dr. Carrie Henning-Smith, University of Minnesota, Deputy Director of CTSI’s Rural Health Program, an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health’s Division of Health Policy and Management, and Deputy Director of the Rural Health Research Center.  

“AFBF greatly appreciates the committee’s focus on rural mental health. Our farmers and ranchers have been coping with increased levels of stress for far too long now, and we must continue to encourage conversations around mental health and stress in our communities,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation, in a statement submitted for the record. “We look forward to working with the committee to improve the quality of life of those living in rural America and will continue to support additional resources for farmers and ranchers to help promote mental wellness.” 

“I applaud you and others on the Committee for holding this timely and important hearing on the future of the rural care economy. As we hopefully emerge from the two-year experience of managing a dramatic challenge to the infrastructure  

of rural communities emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic we have the opportunity to hit a reset button to improve how we deliver and finance essential services, including health care and childcare, that help our fellow citizens live healthy, productive lives,” said Keith J. Mueller, Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) in a statement submitted for the record. 

“Barriers to entry in the workforce, such as lack of access to formal child care, can have a significant economic impact on rural communities and the nation-at-large,” said the Bipartisan Policy Center in a statement submitted for the record. “As this committee looks reflects upon the unique challenges faced by rural communities in accessing child care and the significant economic impacts failing to address the child care gap poses, the Bipartisan Policy Center urges this body to look for opportunities to expand access in existing United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs in the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The USDA remains the preeminent and trusted partner of rural communities best situated to identify resources that will increase access to child care, increase parent choice, reduce unemployment, and bolster the economic development of rural America.” 

“Thank you to the Senate Agriculture Committee for holding the hearing on improving rural quality of life on National Agriculture Day! It underscores the importance rural health has on rural communities. NRHA is thankful for all the Members’ efforts to protect rural health!” said the National Rural Health Association.  

“So many mentions of cooperatives as solutions to issues facing rural America during the Senate Ag Rural Development Hearing today! Health care, elder care, child care, and behavioral care, are all areas where cooperative ownership can thrive and empower workers,” said the National Cooperative Business Association. 

Good to see bipartisan attention during today’s Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on rural care economy to building the capacity of rural communities so that they can access federal dollars to support their community and economic development,” said Anthony Pipa, Center for Sustainable Development, Brookings Institute. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.