5 Action Items for the USDA Rural Prosperity Task Force

Written By: 

Zack Huhn
Chair, IEEE Smart Cities Standards Committee
Founder, Venture Smarter
LinkedIn: Zack Huhn

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As we talk about Smart Regions and connected infrastructure, it is imperative that we focus on connecting people to technology and access beyond our urban and suburban cores, but in our agricultural and rural areas as well - where more than 46 million Americans call home. This USDA task force is focused on just that.

When Venture Smarter launched Regional Smart Cities Initiatives in 2016, the first item on our list of action items was to enhance connectivity solutions not only in our urban and suburban areas, but in our rural and agricultural regions, as well. Although those efforts in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana are well underway, the public-private-partnership looks to grow via organizational collaboration in 2018 and 2019 to support leaders aligned with The United States Department of Agriculture's Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which recently released 5 call to action points:

Rural America includes 72% of the nation’s land and 46 million people. Rural areas encompass regions that focus on agricultural production as well as places where work is more often found in industries such as manufacturing, mining, and forestry. They include locales that are prosperous and rapidly-growing, locales that are chronically depressed, and everything in between. Rural America is home to many different racial and ethnic demographics and a wide array of economic activities. These residents live in a variety of settings, from counties bordering suburbs to remote and isolated areas.
— USDA Website
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Call to Action #1: Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America

In today’s information-driven global economy, e-connectivity is not simply an amenity - it has become essential. E-connectivity, or electronic connectivity, is more than just connecting households, schools, and healthcare centers to each other as well as the rest of the world through high-speed internet. It is also a tool that enables increased productivity for farms, factories, forests, mining, and small businesses. E-connectivity is fundamental for economic development, innovation, advancements in technology, workforce readiness, and an improved quality of life. Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-connectivity will transform rural America as a key catalyst for prosperity.

 

Call to Action #2: Improving Quality of Life

Ensuring rural Americans can achieve a high quality of life is the foundation of prosperity. Quality of life is a measure of human well-being that can be identified through economic and social indicators. Modern utilities, affordable housing, efficient transportation and reliable employment are economic indicators that must be integrated with social indicators like access to medical services, public safety, education, and community resilience to empower rural communities to thrive. Focusing and delivering key federal reforms will enable rural Americans to flourish and prosper in 21st Century communities.

 

Call to Action #3: Supporting a Rural Workforce

To grow and prosper, every rural community needs job opportunities for its residents, and employers need qualified individuals to fill those needs. This requires identifying employment needs, attracting available workers from urban and rural centers alike, and providing the workforce with training and education to best fill the available needs. There are many opportunities to partner with local businesses and organizations to identify gaps, to work with all levels of educational institutions to provide career training and development, to fine-tune existing training programs, and to grow apprenticeship opportunities to develop the required workforce. Providing rural communities, organizations, and businesses a skilled workforce with an environment where people can thrive will grow prosperous communities.

 

Call to Action #4: Harnessing Technological Innovation

By 2050, the U.S. population is projected to increase to almost 400 million people, and rising incomes worldwide will translate into historic global growth in food demand. To feed a hungry world, we will need to harness innovation to increase output across American farmlands. In addition to increased crop yields, technological innovation can improve crop quality, nutritional value, and food safety. Innovations in manufacturing, mining, and other non-agricultural industries can enhance worker efficiency and safety. At the core of these developments that will further grow the rural economy is the expansion of STEM education, research, regulatory modernization, and infrastructure. Leveraging these innovations in an increasingly data-driven economy will also require further development of rural data management capabilities.

 

Call to Action #5: Developing the Rural Economy

Infusing rural areas with stronger businesses and agricultural economies empowers America. Expanding funding options to increase the productivity of farmers and ranchers will lead to the enhanced viability and competitiveness of rural America. By promoting innovative farm technologies, energy security, recreation, agritourism and sustainable forest management, communities will be empowered to leverage the bounties of rural America. Investing in rural transportation infrastructure is needed for carrying more “Made in America” products to markets at home and abroad, and boosting our country’s global competitiveness. Reducing regulatory burdens and attracting private capital will support our ultimate mission of empowering Rural America to clothe and feed the world.

 

What do you think about their broad strategy? Do you have something to contribute? We would love to hear from you! Email hello@smartregions.org.