Agriculture and Rural Economic Development
The last half decade has captured the nation’s attention towards agriculture and rural economic development in ways not seen since the invention of modern farming methods. The food crisis of the late 2000s and the shift to biofuels have shifted lawmakers attention to rural areas, where ¼ of the U.S. population lives. The economic downturn has also brought about demographic changes, challenges with job creation and capital access, as well as debate over infrastructure, land use and preservation of the environment, the community and of historic sites in rural America. State rural economic development programs are often targeted versions of broader state economic development strategies.
Lawmakers will be considering the various impacts that legislation has on rural economic development and agriculture, as well as how it may affect the nation at large: food safety, the future of energy research and development, as well as the marketability and pricing for basic food staples are all sources of interests for legislators. We offer the latest in information about agriculture, rural economic development, and the description of states’ funding and policy choices.
Agricultural Trade agreements that support a global economy have been a boon to U.S. agriculture, but have dramatically changed rural economies. Twenty-three percent of all crops planted and harvested in the United States are exported. More than 800,000 jobs annually are supported by agricultural exports. The NCSL Denver office houses the Agricultural Trade project, in partnership with the Foreign Agricultural Service of (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The project offers legislators information, research assistance, and testimony about international agricultural markets and the impacts that globalization has on farms, jobs, agricultural production and rural economies within this country.
Biotechnology uses modern scientific techniques, including genetic engineering, to improve or modify plants, animals and microorganisms. Scientific engineering of genetically modified food and crops has come under close scrutiny by consumers as well as state and federal governments. NCSL tracks state legislation and federal policies on biotechnology. Some states are actively pursuing "biotechnology corridors," with special incentives for business and academia that establish their biotech activities in their state. Others are concerned about how this new technology may affect human health and the environment. NCSL tracks these efforts and offers unbiased information and insight on the topic.
Farming and Livestock issues include such things as the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, agri-terrorism and liability concerns, drought, confined animal feeding operations, and how changes to the Freedom to Farm Act affect states.
Rural Development is defined by vast possibilities and great challenges. Rural areas are teeming with valuable land and scenic and cultural amenities. At the same time, many areas are struggling with the effects of geographic remoteness and disadvantageous demographic trends.
State Rural Legislation Database offers outreach and insight into state rural development initiatives. This project provides legislators with information on rural development concerns and policies, resources to reengineer rural economies, and tracks legislation on rural activities.
Rural Health exists to raise awareness among legislators about rural health care policy issues and foster dialogue and information sharing between legislators and other rural stakeholders and is staffed by Laura Tobler in the Denver Office.
NCSL staff working on agriculture issues include: Doug Farquhar in the Denver office and Ben Husch in the Washington, D.C. office. Email: email@example.com or telephone: Denver office (303) 364-7700; Washington, D.C. office (202) 6245400.