ACCESS TO RURAL ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Agriculture has long been the backbone of rural prosperity. As such, access to credit and farmland are keys to rural success, but they have not been accessible to all. Through discriminatory policies and practices, credit and land access have been regularly denied to Black and brown farmers, entrepreneurs, and aspiring homeowners, leaving these hardworking Americans on unequal footing in their pursuit of the American Dream. In recent years, credit and affordable land have become increasingly out of reach for young, beginning, and small-scale farmers as well. And for the majority of rural Americans who are not involved in agriculture, obstacles to obtaining licensing can be another real challenge to starting a small business or even just getting to work. Fair access to credit and farmland, and “license for all” programs are instrumental to growing shared rural prosperity
FRAMING: prosperity, sustainability, reciprocity
As policymakers, we aim to unite communities across our shared values. Advocating for access to rural opportunities for all that empowers rural working families and promotes the rural values of prosperity, sustainability and reciprocity is a top priority because these values are deeply held among working people, regardless of where they live or what they look like.
With the support of policy priorities that address equitable food systems like those below, local communities will have what they need to solve local problems. Opposition continues to talk at families, we are forging a new path to ensure legislators are speaking with families. By using effective communication strategies, we can neutralize inflammatory language, unite our coalitions, and pass the policies we all need.
USE SHARED RURAL VALUES TO CRAFT YOUR MESSAGE
Effective communications require more than simply reciting facts, but also leveraging the values people share to resonate across race, class, age, gender, and place. The best messages follow the VPSA model (Values, Problem, Solution, Action). First, we unite along shared values to introduce the issue, then demonstrate the collectively held problem, name the solution to the problem, and finally, leave with a call to action joining you to solve the problem. This formula keeps our messages concise while disarming opponents who seek to divide us. To get you started, here are three rural values we feel are particularly relevant for communicating with rural constituents about access to rural economic opportunity:
- Framing: Rural Americans work together for shared prosperity. They know that when everyone has work that puts a roof over their head and healthy food on the table, the whole community benefits. Policymakers can demonstrate their commitment to shared rural prosperity by ensuring laws and rules are written so that family farms and small businesses have access to the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.
- Example Statement: (Value) Rural Americans work together for shared prosperity. They know that the community is stronger when their neighbors succeed. (Problem) But red tape from outdated state laws is making it harder for local entrepreneurs to start new Main Street businesses. (Solution) I’m working to streamline the licensing process for small businesses, so that everyone has access to the tools they need to contribute to our shared prosperity. (Action) I’m calling on my colleagues to support our Rural Licensing Bill this session.
- Example Talking Points:
- Rural communities thrive when family farmers and small business owners have all they need to succeed.
- When working people have the tools to work hard and care for their communities, the nation prospers.
- Framing: Sustainability is about ensuring that the natural resources and communities enjoyed by our parents and grandparents will be there for our children. Unfortunately, many rural industries are driven by big outside-of-the-community corporations seeking only to extract value from our land and people and leave us with their mess – whether that’s undrinkable water, increased flooding, or high land prices. To ensure the future of our communities, we need to invest in the long-term sustainability of all of our resources, including our land, soil, water, and people.
- Example Statement: (Value) It’s important to me that the rural communities that our parents and grandparents called home are around for our children and grandchildren. (Problem) But when greedy corporations buy up our region’s farmland as a financial investment, it drives up prices so that our community’s young farmers cannot afford land. (Solution) I’ve just introduced legislation to prevent corporations and foreign companies from owning or leasing agricultural land, to ensure good farmland is accessible for our next generation.
- Example Talking Points:
- The rural way of life depends on sustaining and prioritizing our natural resources for all rural families,no matter who they are or where they live, for years to come.
- For generations, rural working families and farmers have worked their land in order to pass it on to their children. Now more than ever, we must invest in rural sustainability to ensure that all American communities thrive.
- Framing: The strong social bonds in rural communities are held together by reciprocal relationships among neighbors. Rural residents, whether they have lived on the land for generations or are first-generation immigrants, rely on one another to get through tough times, pool resources, raise children, and care for the sick and elderly. In the same way, rural people want to see public investments in Main Street businesses that contribute to the economic health of their communities rather than in giant corporations that send their profits to far away headquarters.
- Example Statement: (Value) In rural America, we rely on our neighbors to get through hard times and come out stronger. (Problem) The economic downturn and ongoing bank consolidation have made it even harder for family farmers to access the credit they need to run their farms and support our community. (Solution) That’s why I am moving to expand farm lending programs and offer low-rate direct loans to beginning farmers. (Action) I’m calling on my colleagues to vote with me to expand our Aggie Bonds Program.
- Example Talking Points:
- Rural communities across the country have survived the good times and the bad because of one singular characteristic: through it all, we lift each other up, sharing all that we can to make sure no one goes without.
Rural families depend on each other to make it through. We give each other a hand to get through storms and droughts, a broken-down car, or a lost job, and we celebrate a bumper crop or a holiday meal. We know what it takes to get by and to bring our neighbor along with us.
In practice: Media getting it right
Opinion | Letter: Why I support driver’s licenses for all in Minnesota, 2023
- WHAT WE LIKE
- Explaining an issue that cuts across class, race and economic success can be tricky. The author does a fantastic job pulling out the impact that the law would have on her and her farmworker family, while also opening the discussion to include non-farm workers including teachers.
- That author explicitly names immigrants throughout the article, affirming that “license for all” is for all people, not just workers valued for their economic labor. Immigrants are workers, of course, but first and foremost they are our neighbors and must be considered as such. This is a powerful position and is maintained throughout the article.
- The author’s position and ask are in the first paragraph.
- MOVING FORWARD:
- Explicitly name the shared value being discussed, rather than simply describing our shared experience. Experiences generally do not resonate on quite as deep a level.
Article | Black Farmers Association Opposes BB&T and SunTrust Bank Merger, 2019
- WHAT WE LIKE:
- This article portrays the domino effect that rural farmers, especially farmers of color, experience when trying to access bank loans. As with many topics of this scale, it can be overwhelming to know where to start; this offers an accessible entry point.
- Discussion of racism in banking and credit can be challenging, especially for a broad and primarily white audience. This article clearly and simply depicts the problem, the interconnectedness of race, and how farmers of color are treated and served differently than their white counterparts.
- MOVING FORWARD:
- The end of the article depicts what an ideal relationship would be between banking institutions and rural farmers of color. We suggest leading with this vision. The value of fair treatment is deeply ingrained in rural communities, but often the Black experience of inequality and unfairness is negated. Leading with the vision would be a way to unite with values followed by the experience of Black farmers and how it is different.