Eating Up all the Knowledge

Senate Democratic Rural Summit: Fostering the Next Generation of Rural America

Hosted by Senate Democrats

June 29, 2016


The Senate Democratic Rural Summit was a half day event that focused on the importance of a thriving rural America, for the nation’s economy. The summit was held in Dirksen Senate Office and chaired by Senators Mark Begich, from Arkansas, and Mark Pryor, from Arizona. The summit featured Democratic senators, business owners, farmers, and other interested parties in rural America. The rationale for convening the SEnate Democratic Rural Summit was to engage various stakeholders (i.e., Margaret May Health, Casey Institute, InterBel Telephone Cooperative, Celestial Roots Far, Rios Farming Company, and Worfarm Institute) in a conversation about new collaborations in revitalizing rural America and discuss best practices in utilizing existing programs and policies (i.e., Rural Business Development Grants program, Rural Energy for America program, FAST Act, and Rural Education Achievement Program).

Distinguished Guests

  • Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Senator Klobuchar, Steering and Outreach Chair
  • Senator Reid, Democratic Leader
  • Senator Dubin, Assistant Democratic Leader
  • Senator Schumer, Vice Chairman of the Democratic Conference
  • Senator Stabenow, Ranking, Agriculture Committee

Main Focuses

  • Economic Challenges and Solutions in Rural America
  • Investment Opportunities in Rural America

Panel 1

Economic Challenges and Solutions in Rural America, was the first panel disussion topic. Panel 1 was moderated by Senator Donnelly, Rural Summit Co-Chair, and Doug O’Brian, Executive Director, White House Rural Council. Lead Participant, Senator Manchin, Co-Chair, Senate Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus. Below are discussion points of Panel 1:

  • Lack of health care infrastructure
  • Lack of appeal for businesses to go to rural communities
  • Hospital closures
  • Rural poverty at an all-time high
  • Rising opioid addiction
  • A need to build human capital
  • Need for technological access
  • Needed investments in rural communities, to help national economy

Panel 2

The topic was investment opportunities in rural America. Panel 2 was moderated by Senator Heitkamp, Rural Outreach Chair, and Senator Tester, Member, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The lead participant was Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary of Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The main focuses of Panel 2 are stated below:

  • Technological effect on local farmers
  • Digital divide
  • Rural America participation with start-ups
  • Rural rehabilitation
  • Housing investments
  • Loss of workers to urban areas

Take Aways

It was amazing to learn about the importance rural communities have on the nation’s economy. Working for the Rural Education Achievement Program, it is beneficial to learn about the challenges the communities we serve face. In cause of this, as a team, we are able to better serve the school districts in rural communities. The summit also enphasised the importance education has on rural communities. Not only are school districts the heart of rural communities, it as well fosters the youth who grow up there. The youths in rural communities are the future of that community. With a strong educational foundation these youths will assist in making the rural community thrieve.

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