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Bipartisan Effort Highlights What Works in Rural Communities
Minnesota Ag Connection - 08/13/2019

Saying she's been inspired by the spirit, resilience and ingenuity of the people she's met in rural communities across Minnesota, U.S. Senator Tina Smith announced Monday that she will lead a new bipartisan Senate group that will highlight what's working in rural America, and lift up the local ideas that are helping rural communities thrive in the face of a persistent slump in the farm economy.

Sen. Smith said she is forming the bipartisan Senate "Rural Economic Working Group" along with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota to connect with people and organizations in rural communities who have come together to take on the many unique challenges that often hit rural areas hard. She said the working group will seek out successful local ideas and partnerships and bring them back to Congress to spur efforts to restore economic prosperity in rural communities across the country.

"Right now there's a lot of economic hardship in rural communities, as farm families, rural businesses and communities often find themselves hanging on by their financial fingertips as they struggle with the difficult farm economy," said Smith. "But I've been to rural communities and tribal areas across the state, where leaders and organizations are coming together to do unique and innovative things to not only create jobs and economic development, but also tackle local problems for their residents. It's inspiring, and I want to share their work with my colleagues and, in the process, continue to give hope to other struggling communities in Minnesota and across the country."

Smith made her announcement at East Grand Forks City Hall Monday, just prior to joining Mayor Steve Gander and other local officials and business leaders on a "Rural Economy Tour" of the community. It is one of several such tours that she will conduct in communities around the state this year.

Smith cited several examples of rural communities taking action to tackle problems in unique ways. Earlier this year, she visited Marshall, a regional agricultural center with an increasingly diverse economy. It is home to Schwans Foods and the Marshall Wind Project, but is also doing groundbreaking work to provide much-needed mental health care for students in Marshall Public Schools.

In Luverne, Smith joined the city's Mayor and other local officials and business leaders on a tour of area businesses to discuss economic development initiatives that were creating local jobs. In Bemidji, she saw how successful education efforts have been rooted in Minnesota's tribal traditions.

After her tour of East Grand Forks on Monday, Smith will spend the week in Northwest Minnesota visiting farms and businesses, as well as conducting meetings on the rural housing shortage and addressing rural health care challenges.

Smith said her ongoing efforts to help rural America will include her push to quickly implement the Farm Bill that was signed into law late last year. That legislation included her provisions to expand rural broadband services across the country, and her effort to increase the nation's use of renewable fuels.

She said she also will continue to address the unique health care and housing needs in rural communities and push to expand the availability of mental health services for the growing number of people in rural areas struggling with stress and mental health issues.

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