Montana is a predominantly rural state. Montanans value our rural communities, lifestyle and the open landscapes. Rural communities are aging faster than the rest of the state. Rural communities have less political power due to smaller populations, so they have fewer voices speaking for them. The needs of rural citizens and their communities include:
Infrastructure funding: Well-maintained infrastructure is vital for agriculture and local businesses to thrive. Water and sewer systems, volunteer fire departments, local law enforcement, public schools and well-maintained highways and roads keep our communities viable and livable. Our communities often struggle to fund these services. Infrastructure investments help maintain and improve businesses and communities and create good paying jobs.
Utilities: Rural communities need broadband internet access as well as improved telephone services, including cell and landlines. Electric co-ops need to be open, and responsive to the communities they serve.
Rural health care: Rural hospitals, telemedicine, veterans' health care, and mental health care are key to viable rural communities. Seniors need a range of care options, from home health care to rehab centers and nursing homes.
Support for family farmers and sustainable agriculture: Farmers’ markets, farm to school projects, farm to table restaurants, small manufacturing of food products, niche markets--these provide jobs and access to locally sourced, sustainable foods. Rural voices must be heard on fair trade, concentration in the meatpacking industry, country of origin labeling and the Farm Bill.
Farm transition to next generation: We support ways to help grow the next generation of those who will grow our food, including access to capital, mentorship for beginning farmers and ranchers, and improved extension services.
Education: Public schools are vital to rural communities. They are the community and social hubs of rural Montana towns. Once a small town loses its public school, it loses its identity and its ability to attract young families to farm and ranch.