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Spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s Rural Platform

As the 2016 Presidential Race heats up this fall, the candidates on both sides of the aisle are introducing their platforms on a variety of policy issues, from immigration, to tax reform and education.  However, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate to have released a platform on a topic that directly impacts the lives and livelihood of people all around the country – a plan for Rural America.[1]  Hopefully, this is just the start and more candidates will lay out their policy plans.  For now, rural advocates can analyze the plan we have thus far.

Clinton’s “Plan for a Vibrant Rural America” lays out four focus areas designed to address the educational, economic, and health issues facing rural communities.  Clinton intends to (1) “Spur[ ]  investment to power the rural economy;” (2) “Rais[e] agriculture production and profitability for family farms;” (3) “Promot[e] clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship;” and (4) “Expand[ ] opportunity in rural communities across America.” [2]

To spur the rural economy, Clinton plans to improve infrastructure, access to credit and capital, and investments.  To do so, Clinton would increase the number of Rural Business Investment Companies (RBIC), simplify regulations for community banks that do not measure assets in billions, create and invest in a national infrastructure bank, streamline, expand, and make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), and strengthen USDA grant programs.  These programs would facilitate and develop capital networks and, in turn, increase rural communities’ access to private sector capital.  The areas of infrastructure Clinton would focus on include rural water, transportation, and broadband services.  Regarding USDA, Clinton’s plan centers on funding flexibility and leveraging local resources by working with community partners and public entities to expand the StrikeForce Initiative.

To promote agriculture production and profitability for family farms, Clinton intends to focus on increasing funding and addressing student loan debt to support next generation farmers.  Her platform includes plans to build a strong local and regional food system by doubling funding to the Farm Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program, to ensure that the disaster assistance and crop insurance programs are focused and targeted to farmers and ranchers in need, as well as fight for immigration reform due to the role that America’s immigrant workers play in supporting the nation’s agriculture economy.

To promote clean energy leadership and collaborative stewardship, Clinton’s platform includes plans to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; strengthen the renewable fuel standard, double the loan guarantees made through the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program to support the bio-based economy’s growth; and to launch her “Clean Energy Challenge,” which would involve, among other things, expanding USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

The final focus of Clinton’s rural platform is to expand opportunity in rural communities across America by strengthening the rural economy and raising wages for working Americans. To strengthen the economy, Clinton plans to increase investments in Early Head Start and incorporate President Obama’s plan to make community colleges free.  The final aspect of Clinton’s rural platform focuses on improving the health and healthcare services for rural communities through improved technologies and increased of health care facilities, including substance abuse centers, in rural areas.

Notably, Clinton’s plan does not mention a critical issue for many of America’s rural residents, and that is the need for affordable and decent housing.  At a minimum, it provides an outline of her vision for rural residents to consider and demonstrates that the economic opportunity needs of rural communities are on her mind as she considers what her agenda would be if elected president.

In light of the fact that over 15 percent of Americans live in rural communities, the lack of attention to this population from most of the Presidential Candidates is unfortunate.  It is still early in the 2016 race to the White House, and we look forward to hearing what the other candidates’ visions are for rural America.  As more candidates (hopefully) introduce their platforms for Rural America, check back to the NRHC Blog for updates.

[1] http://www.dailyyonder.com/candidates-wheres-your-rural-platform/2015/09/06/8074/; https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/09/09/the-nonexistent-rural-policy-platforms-of-todays-presidential-candidates/

[2] https://www.hillaryclinton.com/p/briefing/factsheets/2015/08/26/vibrant-rural-america/