Sen. Tina Smith Creates Rural Economic Working Group
KVRR | By Danielle Church | August 12, 2019

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Taking innovative ideas from rural communities in Minnesota and incorporating them at the federal level.

Senator Tina Smith says that’s what can really help some change places across the country need.

She announced she is starting a bipartisan Senate “Rural Economic Working Group.”

And she’s doing it alongside Republican South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds.

“Our goal in this effort is to highlight what’s working in communities across Minnesota and South Dakota and the whole country and to capture those good ideas and bring them back to Washington, D.C,” Smith said.

Smith says one of the main issues it’ll tackle is helping farmers who are dealing with low commodity prices, bad weather and a trade dispute.

“Certainly it’s good to know there are these trade assistance programs that the administration is moving forward but every single farmer that I’ve spoken to says that they want trade, not aid,” Smith said.

She says some Minnesota farmers are also hoping for hemp to help them get back on their feet, after the Farm Bill passed last year will move it along.

“In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, we had a hearing in the Agriculture committee to really understand what more do we need to do to hurry along the Department of Agriculture as it is writing the regulations that will allow hemp to really expand commercially,” Smith said.

Smith says the Senate’s new working group will also try to resolve challenges rural communities face in healthcare that ultimately ends up affecting students in the area who don’t have access to mental health resources.

“It is not unique to rural school districts but it is a particular challenge in rural school districts because you layer on top of the stigma of students getting access to healthcare with the shortage of providers in rural areas which is certainly worse than it is in some of the big cities,” Smith said.

She says the group will also try to resolve challenges rural communities face in recruiting teachers. It’s sharing practices such as the ones used in a thriving place like East Grand Forks, that Smith says could give other communities the tools they need to succeed.

“The best ideas come from the local level, where people who are closest to the work know best how to make things work,” Smith said.

Smith’s week-long tour will continue with stops in Roseau, Luverne and Bemidji.