To build a more prosperous and resilient rural America, we must help create a farm economy that works for all rural Americans and identify and deploy technology that is transformative in feeding America and the world as well as accelerating the transition to a renewable, green economy. We must make rural America and farming a strategic focus of the Democratic Party.
In the process, we can create a stronger, more competitive Democratic Party and change the electoral math in future elections by winning back voters that were once Democrats.
We have a Populist, angry backlash coming out of rural America and Democrats are deeply at fault for ignoring their issues, calling them names for not agreeing with Democratic priorities, and even promoting ideas to marginalize rural America’s voice. To protect democracy, it is critical to win back rural Americans who once voted Democrat. The only way to do that is to make building prosperous rural communities a strategic focus of the Democratic Party.
The problems rural Americans face are real and have been building for a long time. The farm economy has become distorted by big business extracting ever higher rents, small family farms are increasingly indebted and failing at historic rates, and rural counties are losing population causing a massive tax burden for those left behind to support their schools, roads, and public services. Rural anger and resentment are driven by real, tangible problems that are getting worse each year.
The good news for Democrats is that Republicans are focusing almost entirely on a grievance politics, leaving the field wide open for Democrats willing to offer solutions. This campaign believes we can win back voters that used to be Democrats by (brace yourself – this is breathtakingly radical) trying to solve rural America’s problems. Here’s this campaign’s proposal to support growth in rural and coastal Oregon as well as rural America as a whole:
Proposed – A Rural Marshall Plan
In a world growing from 7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, we must dramatically increase farm productivity to feed a hungry planet while overcoming unprecedented pressure from climate change in a way that helps create prosperous rural communities.
To get more income back into small family farms, our goal should be to cut farmer’s costs by 50% or more on inputs (seeds, chemicals, fuel, energy) in 10 years while simultaneously growing farm income by 50% or more – made possible by a transition to a high-tech and green economy – at no cost to farmers themselves. We must fund it with zero interest loans or outright grants.
Growing Farm Income in the Digital Age
Farmers must own their data. Data should be easily transferrable between providers. No hidden charges, no technical barriers, no contractual lock-ins. We must create a public regulatory architecture that gives farmers ownership of their data, not corporations.
Seed costs can be upwards of 10% of farm operating costs. We must reboot public funding for seed production through existing public farm extension services and traditional land-grant colleges to create seeds that are adapted to local conditions, low cost for farmers, and highly resilient to changing climate. We must say no to monopoly seed providers.
Chemical inputs can be 10-20% of farm costs. Better seeds that don’t require chemical inputs (paired with highly automated farming equipment) can reduce chemical usage by 90% across American farms in 5 years and 98% within 10. This can put more cash in farmer’s pockets and dramatically help the environment. We must help with this investment.
- ALGORITHMIC / HIGH TECH FARMING.
There is an explosion in advanced farming employing vertical farms, advanced greenhouses, LEDs, AI, computer vision, etc. We need public support for an open-source operating system for farmers that is highly effective and low cost, paired with a capital bank to help farmers and rural communities diversify from mono-cropping to high intensity indoor farming.
- FARM ROBOTICS.
Democrats must promote the rapid roll-out of smaller, less expensive, highly robotic and autonomous equipment for planting, weeding, and harvesting as a major public effort. We should make sure this new revolution is not captured by a small handful of monopolistic companies that impose platform lock-in and increased costs through large, high-cost machines (one company offers an automated tractor for $600,000, far more than a small family farm can afford). There must be true competition and farmers must be able to work with, maintain (right to repair), and modify the machines they buy. We must incentivize new farm equipment manufacturers to create a surge of new jobs across rural communities.
- GREEN POWER.
Public funding must be used to create a massive investment in electric infrastructure across rural America to make green/electric energy easy to use, ubiquitously accessible, and cheaper than carbon fuels.
- TRANSITION BANK.
To facilitate the fast replacement of rural America’s dependence on carbon fuel driven equipment from combines to tractors to pickups, we must support a public funding bank to finance the conversion of farming equipment to full electric. This funding bank should also fund and incentivize the conversion of personal vehicles that rural communities rely on to drive long-distances for healthcare, shopping, and school.
- FARM BANK.
- Many young people in rural America would like to become farmers, but are shut out because they cannot afford to buy land. We must fund more public purpose mechanisms to convert land from large corporate farms and private equity trusts back into small family farms.
Rural Manufacturing &. High Tech service jobs
- We must create 500,000 new manufacturing jobs in rural counties building high-tech farming (indoor farming), autonomous robotics, and high-tech services.
- We must create high-paying support jobs in data services, robotics repair, etc., and bring these high-paying jobs back into rural communities.
- Community Colleges – invest in high tech transition courses to train the next generation
- 4H upgrade – invest in FFA and 4H organizations to train future farmers on high tech skills necessary to thrive in the future
- University update – reboot land-grant college focus on agriculture and the economics of farming
Today, Rural America is suffering from Republican neglect driven by Republican ideology that abandons the farm economy to a market that is heartless and monopolistic. Adding insult to injury are Democratic policies that have added regulations and costs and just want to add more.
We have to change the game. We have to invest in rural America. We have to bridge the rural/urban divide and help grow prosperity in rural America.
Whether it’s hazelnut farmers in the Willamette Valley or wheat farmers in Eastern Oregon, berry farmers in Yamhill, or tree nurseries in Beaverton, we must move to high-tech agriculture that is the most highly productive in America, the cleanest for the environment, and the most productive for the world.
Show your support for helping build the prosperous rural communities of the future