Rural Development Policy

Chuck Zimmerman

Tom DorrThe opening speaker for day two of Farm Foundation’s Transition To A Bio Economy conference is our USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, Thomas Dorr. He talked about rural policy and we visited for a while before the session got started.

He says that rural policy is more important and timely a topic now than it has ever been, especially as we’re coming off the finalization of the 2008 Farm Bill. Some reasons include the huge growth in the deployment of broadband internet access and the demand for food and energy. With growth in rural communities people are starting to think differently when it comes to policy issues like conservation.

He pointed out that 95 percent of all rural income is off farm and that there haven’t been any new jobs in agriculture in recent years. So he says we need to look at unique uses of local resources for development but that development creates demands on infrastructure like water and sewer. He says that by meeting goals of replacing oil with renewable energy sources we’re creating a significant rural investment opportunity. So the question he poses to communities is “Are they willing to step up?”

Dorr has a long history with the Farm Foundation since he was a member of the round table prior to his appointment in Washington, DC. He also talks about the Foundation’s rural development opportunity tours and one that’s planned for this summer in Europe where he’ll be participating in a farmer to farmer dialogue.

You can listen to my interview with Tom here: [audio:]

You can also download the interview using this link (mp3).

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