Improve Rural Education and Attract and Retain Young People in Rural America
Expand Research at Land Grant and 1890 Schools
Support Community Colleges in Fulfilling their Mission in Rural America
Protect the Financial Security & Health of Seniors
Upgrade Rural Infrastructure
Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures
Rural communities in America are at a critical point in history. For the past decade, rural America has not
been well-served by federal policies, and if Republicans and Democrats in Washington continue these
misguided policies, rural families will see their economic fortunes fall further behind those of other
Americans. But we have the power to choose a different course. Innovative rural Americans have
demonstrated they can compete in the 21st century. But local initiative must be matched by federal policies
that empower rural Americans and family farmers.
Rural America faces numerous challenges, but also economic opportunities unlike anything we have
witnessed in modern history. Resolving these challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities will
depend on electing a President who understands that rural America is important and is willing to provide the
leadership and prioritize policies to improve the quality of life in rural America.
Barack Obama believes that together we can ensure a bright future for rural America. A senator from a rural,
Midwestern state, Barack Obama has worked to ensure rural America’s prosperity and vitality. As president,
he will help family farms and rural small businesses find profitability in the marketplace and success in the
global economy. He will:
Ensure Economic Opportunity for Family Farmers
Support Rural Economic Development
Promote Rural America’s Leadership in Developing Renewable Energy
Improve Rural Quality of Life
In 1785, Thomas Jefferson said, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most
vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty
and interests by the most lasting bands.” Barack Obama believes that more than two centuries later, family
farmers are still the cornerstone of American democracy. He will be a president who stands with family
farmers and helps them thrive for generations to come.
Obama understands that America is not separated into two countries, one rural and one urban. Across the
nation the concerns of Americans are remarkably similar: they want to end the war in Iraq and improve
education, health care, and energy policies. Barack Obama will be the president who does those things – for
I. ENSURE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR FAMILY FARMERS
Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Barack Obama will fight for farm programs that provide family
farmers with the stability and predictability they need. He will ensure that American farmers are protected
from market disruptions and weather disasters. And Obama will ensure farm programs are strong and are
targeted to support family farmers.
The lack of effective payment limitations has resulted in federal farm programs financing farm consolidation
and the elimination of many mid-size family farms. Obama agrees with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and
Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that we should implement a $250,000 payment limitation. And Obama will ensure
those payments go to farmers who need them – not millionaire farmers who rely on American taxpayers to
protect their multi-million dollar profits.
Most importantly, Obama will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by
subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations. Obama will take immediate action to close the
loophole by proposing regulations to limit payments to active farmers who work the land, plus landlords who
rent to active farmers. Both the Government Accountability Office and the Payment Limitation Commission
have called for closing this loophole. Every president since Ronald Reagan has had the authority to close
this loophole without additional action by Congress, but has failed to act.
Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms: In an era of market consolidation, Barack
Obama will fight to ensure family and independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their
production decisions, and transparency in prices. Obama is a strong supporter of Senator Tom Harkin’s (DIA)
legislation that protects independent producers by banning the ownership of livestock by meat packers,
and he will fight for passage of the law as president. Today meatpackers produce more than 20 percent of
the nation’s hogs, and their share is growing. When meatpackers own livestock, they bid less aggressively
for the hogs and cattle produced by independent farmers. When supplies are short and prices are rising, they
are able to stop buying livestock, which disrupts the market.
The 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act prohibits price discrimination by meatpackers against small and midsize
farmers, but the law has not been enforced. Obama will issue regulations for what constitutes undue
price discrimination and his administration will enforce the law. He will also strengthen anti-monopoly
laws; change federal agriculture policy to strengthen producer protection from fraud, abuse, and market
manipulation; and make sure that farm programs are helping family farmers, as opposed to large, vertically
integrated corporate agribusiness.
Regulate CAFOs: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which raise more than 40 percent of
U.S. livestock, comprise a larger share of the livestock industry every year. Barack Obama has worked for
tougher environmental regulations on CAFOs. He has supported legislation to set tough air and water
pollution limits for livestock operations, including limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen sulfide,
ammonia, and other pollutants. In the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency will
strictly monitor and regulate pollution from large CAFOs, with fines for those who violate tough air and
water quality standards. Obama strongly supports efforts to ensure meaningful local control.
Limit EQIP Funding for CAFOs: Barack Obama believes that we should help farmers find the resources
to comply with environmental requirements. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
provides important financial support to farmers seeking to improve the environmental quality of their
operations. Unfortunately, the 2002 Farm Bill lifted the cap on the size of livestock operations that can receive EQIP funding, enabling large livestock operations to receive EQIP payments and subsidizing big
CAFOs by as much as $450,000. Obama supports reinstating a strict cap on the size of the livestock
operations that can receive EQIP funding so that the largest polluters have to pay for their own
environmental clean up.
Establish Country of Origin Labeling: Barack Obama supports immediate implementation of the Country
of Origin Labeling law, which will require meat products to indicate their country of origin. Obama believes
that American producers should be able to distinguish their products from imported ones and that consumers
deserve the right to know where their food comes from.
Encourage Organic and Sustainable Agriculture: Organic food is the fastest growing sector of the
American food marketplace. Demand for sustainable, locally grown, grass-finished and heritage foods is
also growing quickly. These niche markets present new opportunities for beginning farmers because
specialty operations often require more management and labor than capital. To support the continued growth
of sustainable alternative agriculture, Barack Obama will increase funding for the National Organic
Certification Cost-Share Program to help farmers afford the costs of compliance with national organic
certification standards. He will also reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management
Agency’s crop insurance rates so that they do not penalize organic farmers.
Encourage Young People to Become Farmers: The average age of a farm operator in Iowa is 54, and
there are not enough young people entering farming. Becoming a successful farmer is a lifelong endeavor.
Barack Obama will establish a new program to identify the next generation of farmers and ranchers and help
them develop professional skills and find work that leads to farm ownership and management. He will help
our land-grant university system and the cooperative extension services work closely with organizations such
as 4-H and FFA to identify and prepare candidates for this program.
Barack Obama will also provide a capital gains tax break for landowners selling to beginning family farmers,
and a first-time buyers tax credit for new farmers. These incentives will make it easier for new farmers to
afford their first farm.
Make Disaster Assistance Permanent: Farmers are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Barack
Obama has fought to expedite disaster assistance to farmers in Illinois and across the country during difficult
times. Obama will make the disaster program permanent so that farmers do not have to rely on the whims of
Congress to get assistance.
Support Local Family Farmers with Local Foods and Promote Regional Food System Policies:
Farming is a vanishing lifestyle. Less than one million Americans claim farming as their primary
occupation. Those farmers who sell directly to their customers cut out all of the middlemen and get full
retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the important
work which they love. Barack Obama recognizes that local and regional food systems are better for our
environment and support family-scale producers. As president, he will emphasize the need for Americans to
Buy Fresh and Buy Local, and he will implement USDA policies that promote local and regional food
Maintain our Export Competitiveness: The United States is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural
products. More than 28 percent of wheat, 20 percent of corn, and 35 percent of soybeans grown
domestically are exported worldwide. Barack Obama will work to break down trade and investment barriers to maintain the American farmer’s competitiveness around the world. As president, Obama will devote more
resources to research and technology development so that American farmers can maintain their technological
edge in production and distribution of their goods. He will broaden export promotion programs to include
export training and workshops. He will help producers develop global marketing networks through the use
of new electronic transaction systems and special promotion programs. And Obama will work to ensure that
all trade agreements contain strong and enforceable labor, environmental, and health and safety standards so
American farmers are able to compete on a level playing field.
Improve Food Safety: The USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) need more authority to issue
and enforce recalls for contaminated food. Barack Obama supports efforts to improve federal food safety
surveillance to better improve our ability to identify, contain, and prevent outbreaks. He is committed to
expanding resources to inform the public when an outbreak happens so that they can make good decisions
about food safety.
Partner with Landowners to Conserve Private Lands: Because most rural land is privately-owned,
farmers, ranchers, and private landowners are the principle stewards of rural land and water. As a U.S.
Senator, Barack Obama has supported conservation programs, such as the Conservation Security Program
(CSP), that serve as a resource to farmers and assist them with sustainable environmental planning and best
land management practices. As president, Obama will put an unprecedented level of emphasis on the
conservation of private lands. He will advance legislation that works with landowners and follows in the
tradition of the Wilderness Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act to focus federal attention and
increased resources for this key environmental issue. He will also increase funding for CSP and the
Conservation Reserve Program and will create additional incentives for private landowners for sustainable
agriculture to protect and restore wetlands, grasslands, forests and other wildlife habitat.
Encourage Farmers at the Cutting Edge of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Farmers realize
that they can help their bottom line and the environment by using more wind and solar to power production
systems and sharing energy with other users. They are using new irrigation practices to conserve energy and
water. Obama will encourage the use of methane digesters that are being used to produce power from animal
No till and other agricultural practices are reducing energy input and keeping the health of our soil
sustainable. As president, Obama will expand USDA projects that focus on energy efficiency and
Protect the Rights of Sportsmen: Barack Obama deeply respects America’s sportsmen and is committed to
protecting their rights. Tens of millions of Americans hunt and fish. Obama believes that we can protect the
rights of hunters and other lawful gun owners while still working to reduce gun violence and make sure that
guns do not fall into the hands of criminals or the mentally ill.
Barack Obama is fully committed to protecting the forests, fish, and game our sportsmen enjoy. Obama will
provide full funding for a broad range of conservation programs. He also supports a proposal by more than
25 national hunting and fishing organizations to help fish and wildlife survive the impacts of climate
Reduce Air Pollution: The adverse health effects of air pollution include premature death, lung disease,
heart disease, and asthma. Because emissions from power plants and other sources can travel long distances, many rural communities experience air pollution. Barack Obama helped stop President Bush’s attempt to
undermine the Clean Air Act, which would have increased industrial emissions of mercury and sulfur. He
also helped block attempts to roll back environmental regulations on oil refineries. As president, Barack
Obama will restore the strength of the Clean Air Act. He will protect rural families from smog and soot,
which harm lung function and may aggravate asthma.
Combat Water Pollution in Rural America: Barack Obama will work to improve incentives that help
famers prevent runoff pollution from soil erosion, pesticides and fertilizer. As a U.S. Senator, he has fought
to reduce the amount of mercury that is deposited in our lakes and rivers from power plants and factories
hundreds and even thousands of miles away. As president, he will sign into law tough legislation to ban the
use of mercury in chlorine chemical plants.
II. SUPPORT RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Small Business Development and Value Added Agriculture. Small business creates most of the new jobs
and self-employment opportunities in rural America. In addition, “value-added agriculture,” the process
whereby raw agricultural materials are processed into something more valuable, has always been a staple of
the rural economy. The conversion of corn to clean-burning ethanol is an example whose development has
been the most important economic event in rural America since the initiation of the Roosevelt-era farm
programs. Creation of new industries and products based on farm products is one of the most promising
strategies for rural economic development.
To spur the development of small business and value-added agriculture in rural America, Barack Obama
Help Develop Value-Added Products: The Value Added Producer Grant Program provides capital
for famers to create value-added enterprises, such as cooperative marketing initiatives for high-value
crops and livestock and farmer-owned processing plans. These grants are the seeds of new rural
business and provide capital for farmers to create value-added enterprises and cooperatives, such as
onsite or farmer owned processing plants. Obama will increase funding for this important program.
Establish a Small Business and Microenterprise Initiative: Barack Obama will support
entrepreneurship and spur job growth by establishing a small business and micro-enterprise initiative
for rural America. The program will provide training and technical assistance for rural small
business, and provide a 20 percent tax credit on up to $50,000 of investment in small owner-operated
businesses. This initiative will put the full support of the nation’s economic policies behind rural
Support Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Rural areas often have large tracts of land that are owned by the
federal government. Rural counties depend on the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program to make up for
property taxes they can’t collect on federal lands that are located within their boundaries. A consistent
supporter of this program, Barack Obama will ensure that our local governments are fairly compensated for
losses to their tax base through PILT.
Connect Rural America: Barack Obama will ensure that rural Americans have access to a modern
communications infrastructure. Our current telecommunications policy is not serving rural America. Obama
believes we should continue providing universal service funding to wireless carriers that want to provide wireless services in higher cost rural areas but need universal service support to cover the cost of building the
towers and networks to serve rural areas. He also believes we should overhaul the universal service program
to provide the incentives to all telecommunications providers to invest in and offer affordable broadband
services throughout rural America. Obama’s plan will be attractive to the existing telephone companies and
entrepreneurs who can bring new wireless and other technologies to bear to meet the needs of rural
Reform the Telephone Universal Service Program: Obama will direct the Federal
Communications Commission to propose reforms changing the Universal Service Fund program
from one that supports voice communications to one that supports affordable broadband.
Better Manage the Nation's Airwaves: Obama will manage our wireless spectrum in the public's
interest. He will create incentives for more efficient and experimental use of government spectrum
and new standards for commercial spectrum so that underserved urban and rural communities can
enjoy affordable broadband and also ensure that we have enough spectrum for police, ambulances
and other public safety organizations.
III. PROMOTE RURAL AMERICA’S LEADERSHIP IN DEVELOPING RENEWABLE ENERGY
America’s farmers have been on the forefront of the renewable fuels movement. Barack Obama has been
one of the strongest proponents in Congress for increasing the national supply of home-grown American
renewable fuels. As president he will ensure that our rural areas continue their leadership in this arena.
Obama will use some of the revenue generated from his cap-and-trade permit auction to invest in climatefriendly
energy development and deployment. This will transform the economy, especially in rural America
which is poised to produce and refine more American biofuels and provide more wind power than ever
before, and create millions of new jobs across the country.
Invest in the fastest, cheapest way to energy independence: Energy Efficiency
Improving energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest, most cost-effective method to reducing greenhouse gas
emissions, and it results in significant savings for our government, economy and consumers. Cost effective
energy efficiency should take priority over the construction of new generation facilities. Barack Obama will
set a bold national goal of reducing the energy intensity of our economy 50% by 2030.
Make Federal Buildings More Efficient: Obama will ensure that all new federal buildings are zeroemissions
by 2025, and to help reach that goal, he will ensure that all new federal buildings are 40 percent
more efficient within the next five years. Obama will also place retrofitting existing federal buildings at a
top priority, and seek to improve their efficiency by 25 percent within 5 years.
Build Biofuel Distribution Infrastructure: As the share of biofuels in gasoline increases over 10 percent,
conventional fueling equipment will need to be replaced with pumps and tanks capable of handling higher
biofuel blends, like B20 and E85. Barack Obama has been one of the strongest proponents in Congress for
increasing the national supply of home-grown American ethanol and biodiesel. Obama is the only
Democratic presidential candidate to cosponsor and actively campaign to establish the nation’s first federal
Renewable Fuel Standard, which is now law. In the U.S. Senate, Obama introduced a proposal to create the
first national Renewable Diesel Standard to increase our country’s production and supply of Americangrown
biodiesel. Obama also led the successful effort to make gas stations eligible for a tax credit to cover 30 percent of the costs of installing E85 ethanol refueling pumps. Obama will build on those efforts to
improve the production, supply and distribution of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.
Develop the Next Generation of Biofuels: Barack Obama will work to ensure that advanced
biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, are developed and incorporated into our national supply as
soon as possible. Corn ethanol is the most successful alternative fuel commercially available in the
U.S. today, and we should fight the efforts of big oil and big agri-business to undermine this
emerging industry. But it represents only a drop in the bucket of our energy demands and making
ethanol from corn has some significant limitations. Today we produce about 5 billion gallons of
corn-based ethanol per year while we use about 140 billion gallons of gasoline. Even if we are able
to double – or even triple – production of ethanol from corn this will still offset only about 10 percent
of our gasoline demand. There are also real concerns about bringing set aside lands into corn
production as well as concerns about an increase in the use of pesticides, water use and upward
pressure on the cost of food for people and livestock alike. These constraints reveal the scope and
scale of our energy and environmental challenges. As we develop the next generation of biofuels we
must be vigilant to insure that we do in a sustainable fashion so that land and water resources are
conserved. Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government
contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two
billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013. Obama will also work to improve the
national supply of advanced biodiesel. From here the Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Fund
will speed the deployment of multiple facilities.
Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries: Less than 10 percent of new ethanol production today
is from farmer-owned refineries. New ethanol and biodiesel refineries help jumpstart rural
economies. For example, it has been estimated that a 40 million gallon ethanol refinery will add up
to 120 jobs, expand a local tax base by $70 million per year and boost local household income by
$6.7 million annually. The economic development opportunities for advanced cellulosic ethanol
technologies hold potential to revitalize rural communities across the country. Barack Obama
believes we must ensure that local investment continues to play a significant role as the biofuels
industry continues to expand and evolve. Obama will create a number of incentives for local
communities to invest in their biofuels refineries, including expanding federal tax credit programs
and providing technical advice to rural communities that are in a strong position to open their own
refineries. Obama will also provide an additional subsidy per gallon of ethanol produced from new
facilities that have a minimum of 25 percent local capital, and he will provide additional loan
guarantees for advanced ethanol facilities with local investment.
Increase Renewable Fuel Standard: As a leader in the effort to establish the nation’s first
Renewable Fuel Standard, Obama understands firsthand the importance of continuing to increase the
supply of biofuels in our national fuel supply. Obama believes it is imperative that Congress adopt
the Senate-passed proposal to increase the RFS to 36 billion gallons by 2022. As president, Obama
will seek to surpass these targets and establish a requirement to produce at least 60 billion gallons of
biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel, by 2030.
Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Barack Obama will establish a National Low
Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to speed the introduction of low-carbon non-petroleum fuels. The
standard, which Obama introduced in the U.S. Senate with Tom Harkin (D-IA), requires fuels
suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by ten percent by 2020. The Obama plan will help incentivize increased private sector investment in advanced biofuels and has a sustainability
provision to ensure that this boom in U.S. ethanol and biodiesel production does not come at the
expense of environmental conservation. The standard will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions
10 percent by 2020. The LCFS is an important mechanism in ensuring that our efforts to reduce our
oil dependence also reduce carbon emissions.
Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama has developed an innovative approach to double fuel
economy standards within 18 years while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers. His
plan, which will save nearly a half trillion gallons of gasoline and 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse
gases by 2028, will establish concrete targets for annual CAFE increases while giving industry the
flexibility to meet those targets. Obama's innovative approach broke through a 20 year deadlock in
Congress and is the basis for bipartisan legislation that passed the Senate this year.
Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles: Barack Obama believes that all new
vehicles sold in the U.S. should be flexible fuel vehicles, which means they can run on biofuel blends
like E85. Obama will work with Congress and auto companies to ensure that all new vehicles have
flexible fuel vehicle capability by the end of his first term in office.
Develop and Deploy New Renewable Technologies
Require 25 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2025: Barack Obama
will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of
electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind
and geothermal by 2025. This requirement will spur significant private sector investment in
renewable sources of energy and create thousands of new American jobs, especially in rural areas.
As an Illinois state senator, Obama cosponsored a measure to create an RPS in Illinois. And recently,
Illinois signed into law a 25 percent RPS by 2025 measure modeled on Obama’s state senate RPS
efforts. As a U.S. Senator, Obama successfully fought regulatory efforts to put Midwestern wind
projects on hold.
Extend the Production Tax Credit: Obama will also extend the federal Production Tax Credit for 5
years to encourage the production of renewable energy like wind and solar. This program will
provide incentives to farmers and other local producers of renewable energy to boost rural renewable
Create a Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund: Barack Obama will create a
Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund to fill a critical gap in U.S. technology
development. This Fund will partner with existing investment funds and our National Laboratories to
ensure that promising technologies move beyond the lab and are commercialized in the U.S. The
risks and associated costs of commercializing a new energy technology often prevent critically
important technologies from ever seeing the light of day. The gap between the lab and the
marketplace is sometimes referred to as the “Valley of Death,” because many technologies enter but
few ever make it out the other side because of the prohibitive costs of building the first commercialscale
facility that processes that energy source. Currently, U.S. venture capital funding is doing an
effective job promoting research and development stage, but far too often, technologies invented here
in the U.S. such as wind turbines, solar panels, and compact fluorescent bulbs are commercialized
overseas and then sold back to American consumers. Coupled with an Obama Administration’s increased investment in renewable energy research and
development, this Fund’s efforts to quickly deploy new technologies like cellulosic ethanol, carbon
capture and sequestration, and other clean technologies like bio-based plastics will help ensure that
the American economy and environment benefit from clean technologies in the next few years, as
opposed to the next several decades. Obama will invest $10 billion in this fund for five years, and
reinvest profits back into the fund.
Invest in a Digital Smart Grid and Improve Rural Transmission: Like other pieces of
infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, our energy grid is outdated and inefficient, resulting in $50-
100 billion dollar losses to the U.S. economy each year. Like President Eisenhower did with the
interstate highway system, Barack Obama will pursue a major investment in our national utility grid
to enable a tremendous increase in renewable generation and accommodate 21st century energy
requirements, such as reliability, smart metering, and distributed storage. Obama will invest federal
money to leverage additional state and private sector funds to help create a digitally connected power
grid. Creating a smart grid will also help insulate against terrorism concerns because our grid today
is virtually unprotected from terrorists. Installing a smart grid will help individuals produce
electricity on their property through solar panels or wind turbines, which they will be able to sell back
through the grid. Obama will direct federal resources, including tax incentives and increased bond
authority, to the most vulnerable areas as well as rural areas where significant renewable energy
sources are located, as well as work toward national transformation of our energy grid in partnership
with states and utilities.
Invest in Rural Lands and Reduce Carbon Emissions by Promoting Carbon Sequestration: As forests
are cut down, burned and converted to other uses, carbon stored in wood, leaves, and soils are released into
the atmosphere, making the global climate change problem worse. Barack Obama believes any domestic
program to reduce carbon emissions must include domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers,
and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, undertake farming practices that capture carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere, or engage in no till practices that retain carbon currently stored in the soil.
Farmers across Iowa are already aggregating carbon credits for sale on the Chicago Climate Exchange.
Encouraging these efforts will also provide improve water quality and restore natural areas for wildlife and
Ensure Heating Assistance: Barack Obama has been a strong supporter of increased funding for the Low
Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income citizens pay their winter
heating and summer cooling bills. Some 5.8 million households received energy assistance in 2006, and the
program has proved especially critical to seniors, who are more vulnerable to hypothermia and heat stroke.
As president, Barack Obama will build on this important program to ensure low-income families receive
proper assistance to pay their heating and cooling bills and receive support to weatherize their homes to
reduce energy costs.
IV. IMPROVE RURAL QUALITY OF LIFE
Combat the Scourge of Methamphetamine: According to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and
Health, 11.7 million Americans had tried methamphetamine (“meth”) at least once in their lifetime and an
estimated 1.4 million Americans regularly used the drug. The number of Americans who have tried meth is
up an incredible 156 percent since 1996. This epidemic has hit rural communities particularly hard. In Iowa the state treated 6,000 meth addicts in 2005 alone and health officials have reported that abuse among
women is increasing at a particularly fast rate.
Barack Obama has a long record of fighting the meth epidemic. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama fought
for and passed legislation to increase penalties against meth manufacturers, particularly in cases where a
child was exposed. In the U.S. Senate, Obama supported the Combat Meth Act of 2005, major parts of
which became law in 2006. The bill puts federal funds into the fight against methamphetamine, provides
assistance to children affected by meth abuse, and places restrictions on the sale of the ingredients used to
make the drug. As president, he will continue the fight to rid our communities of meth and offer support to
help addicts heal.
Cracking Down on Importation of Meth Chemicals: As president, Obama will cut off drug lab
supplies by restricting global imports of precursor chemicals, and he will take on the Mexican drug
cartels in partnership with Mexico and other nations in the region.
Help Mothers Beat Meth Addiction: The meth crisis in Iowa - and in other rural states - is taking
an especially severe toll on mothers and children. A survey of 500 county law enforcement officials
in 44 states found that 61 percent of counties saw an increase during the last three years in the
number of women abusing meth. Yet, when mothers in America’s heartland seek out treatment to
heal from their addiction, they are often forced to make a choice between treatment and their
children. Most treatment programs prohibit children or disregard children in the provision of
services. Barack Obama believes we need to expand family treatment programs where mothers and
their children are treated together, as a whole family.
Cleanup Meth Labs: There are presently no federal standards to determine if a former meth lab is
now safe and livable. Obama supports the efforts of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to establish
voluntary scientifically-based standards for former meth lab sites.
Improve Health Care: On many important measures of health, people in rural areas are in poorer health
than their urban counterparts. Rural populations, including children, are less likely to have health insurance
or good access to doctors and hospitals. The more isolated a rural community, the more difficult it is to
ensure the availability of needed health care services. A fundamental challenge facing rural America is
stabilizing, sustaining, and strengthening access to affordable quality health care.
Provide Universal Health Care and Lower Health Costs: A basic problem facing rural America is
access to affordable quality health care. Barack Obama is committed to signing universal health
legislation by the end of his first term in office that ensures all Americans have high-quality,
affordable health care coverage. His plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every
year on their health care costs.
Help Small Businesses Afford Health Care: The rural economy is dependent upon small business,
but small employers often struggle to offer health coverage to their employees because it is too
expensive. Obama’s plan will help small employers unable to offer health coverage to their
employees by allowing small employers to participate in the National Health Insurance Exchange and
purchase either a new public plan or a private plan for their employees. Obama’s plan will also
provide subsidies for those who need them. Very small businesses will be exempted from the plan’s
requirement to pay into the system.
Promote Fairness in Medicare and Medicaid Reimbursement: Medicare and Medicaid funding
systems have historically penalized rural areas. Health care providers in rural states often get less
money for the very same procedure performed in urban areas. In fact, Iowa ranks last among the 50
states in Medicare reimbursement rates. These lower reimbursement rates make it difficult for rural
areas to recruit and retain doctors. As president, Obama will work to ensure a more equitable
Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement structure.
Bring Doctors, Nurses, and other Health Care Professionals to Rural America: Rural America
faces shortages of providers, making it a challenge for those with health insurance to get the care they
need. Two-thirds of the federally designated health professional shortage areas in the United States
can be found in rural America. Barack Obama will attract providers to rural America by creating a
loan forgiveness program for doctors and nurses who work in underserved rural areas. Additionally,
he will encourage the expansion of state-of-the-art health professional online education courses
to reach students across rural America.
Expand Community Clinics: To promote access to preventive, diagnostic and other primary care
services, Barack Obama will increase federal capital funds for the building and start-up costs of
community health centers. He will also allow them to obtain reimbursement for a portion of
transportation-related costs. Building networks among health care providers in rural areas is
important to ensuring care coordination, particularly for the high proportion of elderly who reside in
rural areas, often with multiple chronic conditions. Obama’s plan to increase efficiency and quality
of care includes planning grants for local health providers to coordinate care.
Improve Care for Rural Veterans: Veterans in rural areas have poorer health and less access to
care. In many rural parts of the country, the nearest Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) medical
facility is hundreds of miles away. Barack Obama will expand the number of Vet Centers so more
veterans can access care more easily. As president, Obama will fight efforts to weaken the VA by
outsourcing critical competencies, but he will also give the VA the tools and flexibility to contract
with other providers in any remote area of the country in which the VA determines there is
inadequate access to a VA medical center or in which it is impractical to build one. Obama will
strengthen the VA’s telemedicine infrastructure to expand the delivery of high quality health care to
veterans residing in rural communities.
Invest in Health Information Technology and Telemedicine: Obama supports increasing access
to care in rural areas by promoting the wider adoption of effective telecommunications and health
information technologies. He will invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S.
health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems. He
will phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT and commit the necessary federal
resources to make it happen. Obama will ensure that these systems are developed in coordination
with providers and frontline workers, including those in rural and underserved areas. Obama will
also expand the use of telemedicine, using communications technology to bring important health care
services to isolated rural communities.
Improve Rural Education and Attract and Retain Young People in Rural America: Public schools lie at
the heart of rural communities. These schools educate children, serve as local employers and are social and
Support Rural Teachers: Rural teachers face many unique challenges, including lack of access to
professional development opportunities, preparation for multiple subjects and grade levels, and
multiple extracurricular duties. Obama will support rural teachers at all stages of their careers. This
means modifying the certification and teacher preparation process so that, for example, a biology
major can avoid unnecessary and expensive coursework to become a teacher, and instead learn to
teach through proven programs such as teaching residencies that pair up new recruits with master
teachers in rural classrooms. Such a program was introduced by Obama and passed by the U.S.
Senate. It also means giving successful teachers more control over what goes on in their classrooms,
and more opportunities to advance through career ladders, where teachers may choose to take on
additional instructional leadership roles.
Attract Teachers to Rural Schools: Experts predict that we will need two million new teachers
over the next decade to fill our nation’s classrooms. Obama will provide incentives for talented
individuals to enter the teaching profession, including increased pay for teachers who work in rural
areas. He supports making the teaching profession well-respected, well-paid, and results-based with
real opportunities for lifetime career growth and development.
Support Entrepreneurship Education: Barack Obama will create a Rural Revitalization Program
to attract and retain young people to rural America. The program will make grants available to fouryear
and community colleges, the extension services, non-profit organizations and primary and
secondary schools to provide access for rural Americans to entrepreneurship education.
Bring Farms to Schools: Barack Obama will support providing locally grown, healthy foods to
students as a part of the school meals program. This will both reduce childhood obesity and grow
vibrant rural economies, supporting community-based food systems and strengthening family farms.
Barack Obama will support funding for farm-to-school projects for food, labor, equipment, and staff
training. He also will allow schools to give priority to local sources when ordering food. Currently
the USDA prohibits schools from requesting local products during the bidding process. Finally,
Obama will expand commodity support to include the school breakfast program as well as the school
Expand Research at Land Grant and 1890 Schools: The research and education provided by the nation’s
land grant and 1890 colleges played a pivotal role in establishing America’s competitive advantage in
agriculture. Today, these schools need more funding to respond to new challenges. Barack Obama will
increase research and educational funding for projects such as enhancing the profitability and
competitiveness of small and mid-size farms, entrepreneurial education for adults and youth learners, and
research on alternative energy production systems and how to produce conservation commodities efficiently.
Support Community Colleges in Fulfilling their Mission in Rural America: Studies show that
community colleges graduates often remain in rural communities. Obama will provide funding to community
colleges to reevaluate the types of skills and education that are in demand from students and local businesses
in support of health careers, renewable energy initiatives, and other ventures to revitalize rural economies.
This will lead community colleges to implement new associate degree programs that reflect the increasingly
dynamic and technical skills required for rural America to respond to a globalizing workforce.
Protect the Financial Security & Health of Seniors: Rural communities are significantly older than their urban counterparts. Across America, 20 percent of rural Americans are older than 59 compared to 15 percent
Protect and Strengthen Social Security: As the cornerstone of America’s social compact, Social
Security has lifted millions of seniors and their families out of poverty. Without Social Security, 50
percent of elderly people in Iowa would be poor. Social Security is particularly critical to our rural
communities. In fact, one study found that rural communities depend on income from Social
Security nearly twice as much as non-rural communities. The full measure of Social Security’s value
for its recipients – as well as for those who look after and love them – is incalculable. Barack Obama
will preserve Social Security by working in a bipartisan way to maintain its solvency for future
Secure Pensions: Barack Obama will insist that companies keep the promises they have made to
their employees. He will amend bankruptcy laws to keep companies from filing for Chapter 11 in
order to avoid obligations to their workers. In the Senate, Obama voted for new rules to force
companies to properly fund their pension plans so taxpayers don’t end up footing the bill. Obama has
also voted to shore up funding of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that
guarantees retirees receive at least some of their pension monies if their companies go out of
Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less Than $50,000: Since the New Deal, we’ve had
a basic understanding in America: If you work hard and pay into the system, you’ve earned the right
to a secure retirement. But too many seniors aren’t getting that security, even though they’ve held up
their end of the bargain. Barack Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less
than $50,000 per year. This will provide immediate relief to 22 million American seniors who will
not need to file an income tax return, and will eliminate all income taxes for nearly seven million
seniors at a savings of roughly $1,400 each year. For many seniors, this will eliminate the need to
hire a tax preparer, resulting in even larger savings.
Provide Cheaper Prescription Drugs: Our seniors pay the highest prices in the world for brandname
drugs. Iowa seniors on Medicare pay 71 percent more for their drugs than veterans who get
their prescriptions through the VA, and 47 percent more than those who buy drugs at Canadian
pharmacies. They even pay slightly more than individuals who buy their drugs at an online retail
pharmacy. To help lower the cost of pharmaceuticals, Barack Obama believes that the federal
government should negotiate for lower drug prices for seniors in the Medicare program, just as it
negotiates to obtain lower prices for our veterans. He also supports efforts to allow seniors to import
prescription drugs from Canada.
Upgrade Rural Infrastructure: Much of the public infrastructure in rural America has fallen into
significant disrepair. This has hurt the long-term competitiveness of our rural communities. Barack Obama
believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As
president, he will invest in the core infrastructure that rural communities need to thrive.
Improve Transportation Options: Rural America depends on reliable, cost-effective and efficient
transportation - whether by barge, truck or rail - to deliver its products to market. Nearly half the cost
of U.S. grain is accounted for by transportation costs. These problems are made worse by increasing
rates for rail service, aging locks and dams and congested roadways. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority.
Improve Water and Sewer Systems: Rural areas often depend on federal funding to maintain their
water and sewer systems. Recently, however, budget cuts and reduced grant funds have combined to
cut down on the number of new projects. As a result, these important infrastructure areas have been
neglected and allowed to degrade. Barack Obama will ensure these programs are adequately funded.
Modernize Infrastructure on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers: Obama strongly supported the
Water Resources and Development Act, which provided funding to modernize the Mississippi and
Illinois Rivers’ system of locks and dams. The bill will also provide funding for environmental
restoration along the upper Mississippi. The decay of existing locks and dams has led to stagnating
economic development for areas along the river, including Iowa, because of the decreasing ability of
farmers and other producers to ship their goods both domestically and internationally. Obama’s
efforts to pass the Water Resources and Development Act have been praised by the National Corn
Grower’s Association and the American Soybean Association. As president, Obama will continue to
ensure that the federal government invests in upgrading our national transportation infrastructure for
agricultural and commercial goods.
Target Rural Development Aid to Truly Rural Areas: Since 2001, the USDA has distributed
more than $70 billion in grants and loans through its Rural Development program. Unfortunately,
less than half of those funds have gone to truly rural areas. Instead, USDA has awarded the bulk of
these benefits to metropolitan regions, recreational and retirement communities, and businesses that
hardly qualify as contributing to the quality of life in rural America. In one particularly egregious
example, USDA awarded $4.5 million to the Black Dog Tavern on Martha’s Vineyard to refinance a
mortgage and to expand its clothing stores. One key cause of this distorted allocation of funds has
been the Bush Administration’s decision to shift much of the funding from grants to loans, pricing
out the lower-income, truly rural areas that most need the funding but can least afford to repay the
loans. As president, Barack Obama will rationalize USDA funding rules to ensure that these funds
are provided to truly rural areas, with preferences for areas that have a harder time attracting private
Create Fund to Help Homeowners Avoid Foreclosures: Iowa has the ninth-highest rate of foreclosures in
the nation, and the rate of foreclosures has increased 21 percent since last year. In addition to taking
important steps to prevent mortgage fraud from occurring in the future, Barack Obama will establish policies
to help Americans currently facing foreclosure through no fault of their own. For instance, in communities
where there are many foreclosures, property values of innocent homeowners are often also negatively
impacted, driving them toward foreclosure, too.
Obama will create a fund to help people refinance their mortgages and provide comprehensive supports to
innocent homeowners. The fund will also assist individuals who purchased homes that are simply too
expensive for their income levels by helping them sell their homes. The fund will help offset costs of selling
a home, including helping low-income borrowers get additional time and support to pay back any losses
from the sale of their home and waiving certain federal, state and local income taxes that result from an
individual selling their home to avoid foreclosure. These steps will ensure that individuals who have to sell
their homes will be able to quickly regain stable financial footing. The fund will be partially paid for by
Obama’s increased penalties on lenders who acted irresponsibly and committed fraud.