Last week, I listened in on the National Rural Assembly Webinar Series: Exploring Rural Policy Opportunities. Speaker Anita Brown-Graham, Director of the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, lead us through some of the opportunities for rural issues in the current policy environment. Tuesday, we covered the tourism opportunities. Today, I want to focus on the rural-urban connection.
The current administration has a strong emphasis on urban issues, so where do we find opportunities for rural issues in this environment? Brown-Graham encouraged rural people to participate in conversations on urban policy because there is a strong connection between rural and urban policy issues.
- Sustainable Communities Initiative – This initiative is kind of unprecedented, Brown-Graham said. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency are working together and providing incentives to regional planning. It promotes all the things the Smart Growth movement was talking about.
- Megaregions – Almost every rural area of the United States is influenced by the economy and issues of a major metropolitan area. Megaregions are the massive areas of influence that usually include several major metropolitan areas, along with wide swaths of rural areas. America 2050 has a map of the megaregions and their areas of influence. The entire America 2050 site is worth spending some time on, to better understand the connections of rural and urban planning.
- Food systems – Rural economies can build a direct rural-urban link through food systems. To address inner-city food deserts, USDA is looking to establish new farmers markets and supermarkets in urban areas, Brown-Graham said. I would also connect this with the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food project.
Brown-Graham also made an excellent point about the differences in rural communities:
Not all rural communities are:
- agriculturally based
- in economic distress
- remote or economically disconnected from metro areas
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