Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
12/9/12 commentary by Norman MacLeod
followed by USDA CHIEF: RURAL AMERICA BECOMING LESS RELEVANT
Thereís a strong temptation here to scream and shout, but I recommend that we look closely at what is said in the AP article. As the Secretary says . . . we can be reactive or we can be proactive.
Yes, the number of voters in rural America as compared to urban America has an impact. Here in Washington, we call that the I-5 Corridor effect. Yes, itís true that many urban and suburban voters have only the sketchiest understanding of what it takes to get their food to the grocery store, or the two-by-fours to the homebuilding mega-store. Them are the facts, maíam.
USDA Secretary Vilsack concentrated on farm issues. We have to remember that his department is the home of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the largest federal land-holders. Many of us live in counties where the U.S. Government is the majority land-holder . . . where we are heavily dependent on the federal governmentís payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) which is generally grossly underfunded, leading to unwarranted deterioration of our transportation infrastructure and underfunding of our local education systems.
While Secretary Vilsack sounded rather dismissive of rural America, there are some things we can take away to work with.
For instance, his comment about ď. . . an adult conversation with folks in rural America.Ē Yeah, that might be useful . . . so long as we are not being lectured at by people who take a patronizing position of some kind of assumed superiority over us. There are ways to have an adult conversation between equals, and the Tenth Amendment was created to ensure the preservation of those opportunities.
Allow me to clearly state that I am not talking about stateís rights, county supremacy, or anything beyond the Tenth Amendment reservation of powers principle that ensures local government the right to be at the federal policy-making table as full equals to the federal agencies that plan for and manage our federal lands and who regulate our activities. Those Tenth Amendment principles were created for our use, and just because they have not seen a lot of effective use doesnít mean that we canít start using them now.
So, yes Mr. Secretary, by all means, letís have some adult to adult conversations . . . but letís make sure that they take place between equals, just as the authors of the Tenth Amendment envisioned.
As for those of us who live and work in rural America, letís make sure that we make use of the opportunities weíve been provided to become more proactive and more relevant, one county at a time. While there may not be enough of us to be overly relevant in numbers, there are enough of us to become relevant to the policy process.
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