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Best Days Lie Ahead for the Rural Economy


To the Editor,

In December, President Biden appointed me as the Missouri State Director for USDA Rural Development. From growing up in rural Lafayette County to serving as a Rural Policy Director for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and District Liaison for Congressman Ike Skelton in rural Missouri, I have personally seen the powerful impact Rural Development programs have on our rural residents, businesses, and communities.

Earlier this week, President Biden used his first State of the Union address to talk about where our country has been and where we are going.

The President mentioned a lot we can be proud of and even more to look forward to, especially in rural America.

The country has faced deep challenges over the past year, and the people of rural America know this better than anyone.

But rural communities are resilient, and as the success of rural America goes, so goes the rest of the country.

That’s why the progress we have made in rural Missouri over the past year is a good sign for everyone. By investing in water infrastructure and broadband, rural business opportunities and the American food supply chain, USDA is helping communities build a foundation for sustained economic growth.

Rural Development works hard to consistently create a more resilient, secure, and sustainable economy for rural Missourians. For example, during Round One and Two of our ReConnect Program, Rural Development invested more than $90 million in funding to Total Highspeed LLC to offer high-speed internet, ultimately expanding opportunities for employment, education, healthcare, and businesses in Christian, Dallas, Greene, Lawrence, Stone, & Webster Counties. Creating opportunities such as these in rural Missouri is vital to keep our businesses right at home.

Additionally, through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program and the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program, we’re answering the President’s call to create more resilient, diverse and secure supply chains. Promoting competition in the processing sector will lead to fairer prices for farmers, greater value for workers, and more affordable and healthier food produced closer to home for families.

These investments create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. They help grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out like the President talked about. And they contribute to a circular economy where the resources and wealth we build in rural Missouri stay right here in Missouri.

And they’re just the beginning. In the State of the Union, President Biden committed to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin to replace poisonous lead pipes—so every child—and every American—has clean water to drink at home and at school, provide affordable high-speed internet for every American—urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s plan for the economy is already producing historic wins, and there’s room for everyone to participate, no matter their zip code.

That’s why we’re optimistic that our best days lie ahead.

By giving everyone a fair shot and providing equitable access to federal resources, we can do our part to carry out the President’s economic vision. That means making more things here at home, strengthening our supply chains and lowering costs for working families. It means giving people opportunities to make a good living without having to leave the communities they know and love.

For a lot of us, that means staying right here in rural Missouri.


Kyle Wilkens

USDA Rural Development Missouri State Director