Tester drives agenda at Rural Summit

Senator hails rural values, speaks to need for smart investments

(U.S. SENATE) – Speaking on a panel focused on rural economies, Senator Jon Tester today said that ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches to growing America’s rural economy will not work.

Tester, who has lived his whole life in Big Sandy, Montana, spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing rural America at an annual Senate Rural Summit.

Pointing to America’s wide range of rural small businesses and communities, Tester said only smart, targeted investments and initiatives would create jobs and drive growth in rural parts of the country.

“Rural America’s economy depends on where you live,” said Tester, the Senate’s only working farmer. “Making investments that get the best bang for the buck will help us meet the needs of farmers along with other small business owners. That means smart investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.”

Tester, who noted that many rural areas are less populated than when he was growing up, said that better access to capital would help new businesses, or as he said, “the little guys who create opportunities.”

Tester took questions from the audience and the panel’s host, Sara Wyant of the publication Agri-Pulse, on sustainable economic development and the importance of local foods for local economies. He used the opportunity to push his Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act that encourages the production and sale of local foods.

Today’s summit comes in the wake of Tester’s recent criticism of the U.S. Education Department’s ‘Race to the Top’ initiative. Tester this month told Education Secretary Arne Duncan that small, rural school districts do not have the resources to compete for funding against larger districts.

Tester was joined on the panel by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).