The Biden-Harris administration announced the Rural Partners Network (RPN) led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to institute a whole-of-government approach to partnering with rural places on economic opportunity.
The announcement from the White House states that “To begin making the federal government work better for rural America, the Rural Partners Network is…helping rural communities identify and leverage critical resources with the partnership of on-the-ground federal staff.” This new network is being closely coordinated with other federal initiatives, including Justice40 and the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.
The RPN is being established in five states first: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Mexico. These locations were selected based on a variety of criteria, including levels of economic distress. The second cohort is teed up and includes Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Tribal communities in Alaska set to launch by the end of August.
The newly announced “Rural Prosperity Interagency Policy Council” will create a new, desperately needed whole-of-government approach to rural economic development and conduct outreach to rural communities and rural leaders to disseminate information, offer technical assistance support, and seek input regarding the economic development barriers they face and support they need. While we acknowledge the need to grow this approach to include at least Tribal leadership and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the recognition of the need to pull federal agencies together to coordinate an approach to rural development is a significant step.