A new report from the USDA reinforces what we’ve been seeing on the ground in Iowa and across rural America: Population levels and personal incomes are falling off, while poverty rates are on the rise. This bad news means it is more important than ever for presidential candidates to articulate their vision for helping rural communities get back on track.
In America’s completely rural counties, populations declined by up to 2% from 2010 to 2018. As populations declined, so too did growth in employment. These figures are more than what the numbers show — they illustrate what we’ve been hearing for a long time. You might feel the recovery on Wall Street, of if you live in the cities and the suburbs, but if you’re from a small town or a rural county things haven’t been getting much better for you.
Things may have improved for some, but many still feel as though they are being left behind. You can see this most clearly through what the study reveals about personal income growth. In this time of supposed recovery and national wage growth, wages in farming and mining counties have actually fallen. That’s after President Trump ran a campaign on supporting both of those industries.
It is absolutely vital we reverse these declining economic conditions in rural America. The 46 million Americans living in non-metro counties are just as important as those who live anywhere else. The good news is we have seen a lot of positive momentum from Democratic presidential candidates on this front.
We’ve seen a number of plans aimed directly at halting this decline in rural areas. They go after school consolidation, hospital closures, crumbling infrastructure, Farm Bill reform, water and soil quality, value added agriculture and manufacturing, and more. It amounts to a complete recommitment to these important, hardworking people.
Most importantly, they show Democrats are paying attention — that they care. That’s more than President Trump can say. What candidates need to do now is deliver these rural commitments to a national audience.