Rural county leaders look for attentive ears in Washington

The National Association of Counties’ Rural Action Caucus (RAC) recently returned from a “fly-in” advocacy effort in Washington, D.C. to promote rural America’s most pressing issues.

RAC is a bipartisan coalition of 800 rural elected officials, who advocate for rural counties through effective federal legislation. The caucus is not only the advocacy arm of the organization, but also serves as the conduit for technical and programmatic assistance through the NACo County Services Department.

Seventeen members of NACo’s Rural Action Caucus takes a trip to Washington, D.C. once a year to speak on behalf of the nation’s rural communities to administration officials and Congressional leaders. This year, the RAC talking points were somewhat varied. Topics such as health care, transportation and environmental protection were covered with an eye towards getting funds out the door and into the hands of rural leaders.

Priorities for Rural America include development programs through the USDA and farm bill implementation; reauthorizing the highway bill in September, with a focus on rural roads and bridge funding; expanding rural health care initiatives and the Country Health Care Costs Act of 2009. RAC also voiced opposition to legislation that expands the federal reach of the Clean Water Act.

“With a new administration in office, it is more important than ever forge new partnerships and emphasize face-to-face the importance of adequate federal funding for programs essential to rural counties,” RAC Chairman Bill Kennedy, supervisor, Yellowstone County, Mont., said. “I believe this effort was very successful in communicating our challenges directly to the White House and members of Congress. They need to hear from those of us who represent rural communities.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was also a key part of the discussion, focused on providing economic stimulus funding for rural communities.

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