The Biden-Harris Administration announced the launch of the Rural Partners Network (RPN), an initiative led by the USDA and focused on transforming the way federal agencies partner with rural communities to create economic opportunity. This announcement comes as part of the Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour.
RPN is part of the American Rescue Plan and is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between federal agencies and local leaders and residents, according to senior administration officials. RPN will place federal field staff members in more than 25 communities, tribal nations, and territories across the country. These staff will be funded by USDA, but they will have a “whole-of-government” mandate: help rural communities create economic opportunity by leveraging resources from all federal departments and agencies.
“Rural America is incredibly diverse – economically, racially, culturally, and geographically. What makes sense for one community may not for another,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says. “The Rural Partners Network will help communities get funding for investments that create long-lasting benefits for their communities, especially those that have been overlooked in the past. By providing one-on-one support to these communities, we can lay the foundation for people to build healthy, successful futures on their own terms.”
The RPN has two primary goals:
- Helping rural communities identify and leverage critical resources by partnering with on-the-ground federal staff.
- Empowering rural communities to foster a federal government that better delivers for rural America.
The USDA and the Biden Administration will launch RPN staff to a first cohort of states on April 20. These communities were selected according to a series of risk factors, including economic distress and readiness of the communities and local stakeholder organizations to participate in RPN, according to senior administration officials.
The first cohort includes the following states and tribal nations:
- San Carlos Apache Tribe
- Tohono O’odham Nation
- Cocopah Indian Tribe
- Southwest Georgia Regional Commission: Counties of Mitchell, Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Seminole, Miller, Terrell, Thomas, and Worth
- Ben Hill County and City of Fitzgerald
- Emanuel County and City of Twin City
- Fulton County Partnership*: Cities of Fulton, Hickman, and Cayce
- Kentucky Highlands: Counties of Bell*, Perry*, Harlan*, Leslie*, Letcher*, Whitley, Knox, Clay*
- Washington County Economic Alliance: Counties of Washington, Bolivar, Sunflower, and Leflore
- Greater Grenada-Lake District: Counties of Grenada and Yalobusha
- North Delta Planning and Development Collaborative: Counties of Coahoma, Quitman, and Tunica
- Northern New Mexico Pathways: Counties of San Miguel, Taos, Mora, and Colfax
- Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments: Counties of Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna
- Mesilla Valley Partnership: Doña Ana County
*Asterisks indicate Priority Energy Communities as determined by the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization.
A second cohort will be created by the end of August and will include Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Tribal communities in Alaska.
If provided the support from Congress requested in the President’s FY23 Budget, RPN will continue expanding to ultimately serve all 50 states, as well as more tribal nations and territories, according to senior administration officials.