The White House at dusk on Monday, March 21, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A bipartisan bill has been introduced in Congress that would create a permanent office in the White House for rural prosperity issues. According to its proponents, the office would improve lives and livelihoods over time in rural America. 

Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Rural Prosperity Act, which aims to streamline federal services for rural America and eliminate bureaucratic obstacles by establishing the Office of Rural Prosperity. The Office would be a permanent fixture in the White House tasked with coordinating federal efforts to support and connect America’s rural communities to federal programs and resources. 

“It’s clear to me that the federal government needs to lift up rural communities and build a country where every American can benefit from our growing economy. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan and bicameral effort to reverse that trend by creating – for the first time in American history – a permanent office in the White House fully focused on rural economic prosperity,” Craig said in a press statement.

Matt Hildreth, executive director for Rural Organizing – a major supporter of the measure – said the organization “strongly” supports the creation of the office in the White House to ensure that dollars earmarked for rural Americans stay in rural communities and are spent effectively.

“That kind of commitment can improve the lives and economies of rural communities by ensuring that federal tax dollars designated for them get to the right places and are used effectively,” Hildreth added in a statement. 

If it becomes law, the measure would create the Office of Rural Prosperity within the White House to coordinate rural economic development programs across government. The office would be led by a Chief Rural Advisor, who will be appointed by the President and be responsible for coordinating all federal rural development efforts. 

A Rural Prosperity Council, consisting of heads of executive branch departments, agencies and officers serving rural areas, would also be formed. Finally, a strategy for the future of rural economic development would be designed. 

Currently, there are wide-ranging programs across the federal government that don’t have a coherent policy, said Tony Pipa, an expert in economic development and co-author of a Brookings Institute report on rural America, in an interview with The Daily Yonder. 

“My personal suggestion would be that such an office, for example, would be the place that develops a national rural strategy or a national rural policy. So it provides a vision for how federal support and policy can better enable rural resilience and prosperity amongst that diversity, and also can maintain and sustain those efforts over time,” he said. 

“Because development in the sense of starting from one place, and getting to a place where a community is thriving as more prosperous, and sustains that prosperity over time, will also take time.”

Pipa added that it has to have buy-in from Cabinet secretaries and assistant secretaries throughout the federal government. 

“I think the important thing is to make sure that it’s resourced both with people and money the way it needs to be, [so that it] matches actually the mandate and the purview that the Office has,” he said. 

Craig and Newhouse were joined in introducing the Rural Prosperity Act by Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA), Adrian Smith (R-NE), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Randy Feenstra (R-(IA). U.S. Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

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