By Jennifer Dorsett
“Rural” seems to be a buzzword lately.
And you know what? I’m glad rural America is on the radar these days.
I’m a product of rural America. But I’ve seen with my own eyes how, over the past several decades, a slow decline has crept across our small towns and communities as more people move to urban areas. Loss of businesses. Loss of services.
Rural infrastructure is aging. Roads, electric grids and other transmission lines need to be updated. Water transmission pipes are often crumbling and beyond repair, letting our most precious natural resource slowly leak away instead of going to the homes, businesses and farms where it is most needed.
We’ve fallen behind in some areas, like access to internet and rural health care. Thirty-nine percent of rural Americans lack access to internet speed that the Federal Communications Commission says is necessary to be able to stream videos and access real-time data.
In rural areas, there are about 13 physicians available to serve every 10,000 residents. That’s a lot of sick people to try and care for, especially during the current flu season.
Rural America has also been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis. Around 75 percent of farmers and ranchers say a family member or friend has been directly impacted by opioid abuse.
It all seems pretty dire, doesn’t it? But that’s not the whole story.
Rural America is where our country began, and we’re finally getting some attention again. Officials and leaders have started to see how important the non-urban areas are to our nation’s economic well-being.
Initiatives are attempting to stem the flood of opioid abuse in small towns and farming communities. The president signed two executive orders to fund the expansion of rural broadband access. There are rural development agencies and offices on the state and national level.
But rural areas can’t do it alone. It takes rural America working with urban America to make our country hum—to be efficient and productive. To be the greatest country in the world.
I couldn’t be more proud of my small town roots. But I’m also proud to know that rural and urban America can work together and grow jobs and security for our future. And for that, I’ll wear my red, white and blue with pride.