President Barack Obama is expected to create a new advisory council Thursday that will focus on quality of life and economic issues facing rural America. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor, will likely lead the effort.
An unnamed White House official told the Associated Press that Obama will sign an executive order to establish the Rural Council, and that the advisory group will give recommendations to the administration on a wide variety of interests and issues facing the millions of Americans who live in rural areas, beginning with economic development and job creation.
The Rural Council will also offer advice on agriculture, health care, education, infrastructure, conservation and technology specific to rural American life.
In a May column, Vilsack pushed the need for quality educational opportunities outside of urban areas, saying such discussions were key to bringing better economies to the demographic.
Although land values have skyrocketed and agriculture as a economic sector has mostly weathered the latest national recession well when compared with other industries, the successes haven’t necessarily translated to good economic forecasts for rural towns and regions. In fact, a July 2010 study noted that when state governments tighten their belts, it is often rural areas that bear the most burden.
For more than two years, The Iowa Independent has been reporting on the impact the health care industry can and does have on rural economies and rural residents. No doubt Obama’s Rural Council will also take note of how brain drain is negatively impacting rural areas, how it is difficult to find qualified physicians and therapists with the understanding and willingness necessary to serve the demographic and how even positive government or regulatory changes may not be enough to aide rural America. Recommendations by the panel will be made even more difficult by the fact that as each year passes, the face of rural America is changing.