WHITE HOUSE RURAL COUNCIL
The vitality of rural America is critical to ensuring the strength of our economy, the affordability of our food, the independence of our energy supply, and the vibrancy of small communities. President Obama values rural America’s important contributions to our Nation’s well-being, and has worked tirelessly to strengthen the economic security of rural communities across the country. By enacting policies that have helped stave off a second Great Depression and get our economy growing again, the President has laid the foundation for economic growth that will create high paying jobs for all Americans.
These policies have made significant impact in rural areas, but the pace of job growth is still not fast enough. In response, the President has redoubled his efforts to strengthen the economy and ensure that all Americans living in rural communities have equal access to a first-class education, affordable healthcare, and real economic opportunities.
This report lays out the economic landscape rural America faces today and presents some of the Administration’s many efforts to promote economic growth and job creation in rural communities.
Rural America is home to a vibrant economy supported by nearly 50 million Americans. These Americans come from diverse backgrounds and work in a broad set of industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, services, government, and trade. The agricultural sector alone supports 1.8 million American jobs and represents 5% of our exports. In fact, American farmers are the most productive in the world. This productivity has given Americans access to an affordable food supply that allows us to spend more of our income on other everyday goods.
Moreover, many of the Nation’s small businesses are located in rural communities. Small businesses are the engine of job growth and an important source of innovation for the country. Likewise, many fast growing clean energy companies that are helping to secure our Nation’s energy independence are also located in rural communities. Renewable energy efforts in rural America are leading the way in developing important technologies that commercialize alternative energy sources. These enterprises not only create new jobs, but also improve our competitiveness globally.
Rural Americans are also an integral part of our military. Although rural residents account for 17% of the population, they make up 44% of the men and women who serve in uniform. In fact, approximately 6.1 million veterans currently live in rural communities. Despite their contributions, many of our veterans face enormous economic challenges. The unemployment rate as of July 2011 among post-September 11 veterans is 12.4%. Many of these unemployed veterans need educational training and job certification to successfully transition back into the civilian workforce. To fully honor the service of the men and women in uniform, this Administration has worked hard to make sure our veterans receive the medical care, training, and employment support they deserve in the rural communities where they live. The great American outdoors is another important aspect of rural communities. The outdoors represents a critical source of jobs and an invaluable national treasure. More than 261 million acres of land are set aside for the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the National Landscape Conservation System for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Department of Interior managed lands alone attract more than 400 million visits each year, representing approximately 8% of overall tourism spending in the United States. Moreover, spending by recreation visitors around our National Forests is estimated to be nearly $13 billion annually, sustaining more than 224,000 jobs.
Despite its many strengths, rural America still faces significant challenges. Many rural communities have lower incomes, higher poverty rates, worse health outcomes, and lower educational attainment than urban and suburban areas. The Administration cares deeply about solving these important challenges facing rural communities. To that end, President Obama has implemented an agenda that addresses many of the most significant obstacles faced by rural America.
With the establishment of the White House Rural Council led by the Secretary of Agriculture, the President has committed the Administration to build on its efforts to improve the economic security of rural communities. Specifically, the Obama Administration has proposed and implemented policies to promote economic expansion, create jobs, improve access to quality healthcare, foster innovation, and expand outdoor opportunities in rural America.
The following highlights some of the accomplishments that this Administration has achieved in rural communities.
About the White House Rural Council
“To address challenges in Rural America, build on the Administration’s rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council.
The Council will coordinate the Administration’s efforts in rural America by performing three core functions. It will:
- Streamline and improve the effectiveness of Federal programs serving rural America
- Engage stakeholders on issues and solutions in rural communities
- Promote and coordinate private-sector partnerships”