In keeping with President Donald Trump’s executive order establishing the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue launched the effort on Thursday along with representatives from 22 federal agencies that are taking on the wide-ranging initiative.
The task force will work to find ways to increase jobs, housing and educational opportunities for America’s rural communities, and to remove obstacles, such as burdensome regulations, and to improve infrastructure and access to technology.
The task force held its inaugural meeting in Washington, D.C., and attendees included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai, and other government officials.
“What we began here today is to lay a fertile seed bed in rural America, where good things can grow,” Perdue said. He went on:
Rural America has been struggling under burdensome regulations, but the leaders we gathered today are willing to work together to turn that around.
By establishing this task force, President Trump showed his commitment to prioritizing the prosperity of the farmers and ranchers of America’s heartland, as well as all citizens living in rural communities across this great country.
Guided by the President at the helm, and with Secretaries Carson and Perry, Director Mulvaney, Trade Representative Lighthizer, and so many others, we are telling rural America that we’re here, we’re listening, and we’re going to help provide you with the resources, tools, and support to build robust, sustainable communities for generations to come.
When asked by Breitbart News why Perdue’s agency is taking the lead on implementing Trump’s order, the Secretary said the president knows that rural Americans aren’t enjoying the same economic uptick that the rest of Americans are enjoying and that rural communities are represented in every state.
“I think [Trump] saw the USDA and the Secretary of Agriculture as the one to bring these intra-agencies together,” Perdue told Breitbart News.
“The other thing is, I guess with all those members of Congress, they all have a certain degree of agriculture in their district and they understand the needs of [those communities].” Perdue said. “It’s the one common denominator I think that unites us in many, many ways across America.”
In April 2017, Trump issued an executive order establishing the task force “to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.”
Regulations, in fact, were routinely mentioned as something detrimental to rural prosperity, including rules and regulations put into place by the EPA that create obstacles for farming and ranching.
The White House laid out the plan this way:
While much of the country has recovered from the recent recession, large areas of rural America have not fared as well. Nationally, 85 percent of persistently impoverished counties are in rural areas, and one in four rural children is growing up in poverty. The employment numbers continue to lag, and without connectivity and improved infrastructure widely available, the population in rural America is at its lowest point since 2010.
The Task Force is working to improve quality of life for people living in rural areas, develop a reliable workforce, spur innovation and technology development, and roll back regulations to allow communities to grow and thrive. By directly engaging stakeholders to develop an action plan for legislative reforms and regulatory relief, the Task Force is expected to accomplish a great deal for rural Americans. President Trump has asked for a report with concrete recommendations within 180 days of the Task Force’s creation.
“Promoting agriculture and rural prosperity is something that is very important to me since I know first-hand how vital energy and electricity are to our rural areas,” Perry said of his agency’s role in the task force. “At the Department of Energy, we are ready to do our part to bring prosperity to our small towns and rural communities.
“Our Bioenergies Technology Office facilitates private and public partnerships to develop new technologies that make biofuels cost-competitive, and our national labs are hard at work developing new ways to use our crops for energy,” Perry said.
“If you’re going to address the needs of rural America, you can’t do it one agency at a time,” Mulvaney said at the event.
Tate Bennett, who represented the EPA at the meeting, said reviewing and reworking the “Waters of the United States” rule as it relates to the Clean Water Act is a priority for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
“He wants to hear from the people who are directly impacted by WOTUS, and that’s rural America,” Bennett said.