A new “Rural Resilience Navigator” – a resource designed to help rural Minnesota communities develop their own plans for climate adaptation and local resilience _ has been developed by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. IATP’s report and resource document describes the challenge: “At our Rural Climate Dialogues in Stevens, Itasca, and Winona Counties, participants all identified similar areas of concern: Rising energy costs, challenges in adapting land management decisions (e.g. agriculture and forestry) to climate change and flooding impacts on infrastructure…Rural households have lower incomes and older housing stock on average. And, rural communities are typically more closely tied to natural resource-based economies that will become less predictable in the face of climate change.’’ Good news is: “Despite and often due to these challenges, rural communities are at the forefront of creating the solutions necessary for a climate-friendly economy. The rural landscape is comprised of: forests, farms and rangelands that can capture carbon when managed appropriately; land and resources for wind, solar and other renewable installations; and most importantly, people and ingenuity to implement the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Despite some concerns about the overall size of Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget and bonding bill, strong support for its main elements is coming from rural cities, advocates for vulnerable people, voices for racial equity, and from business leaders seeking investments in clean energy, housing, child-care and workforce skills. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities says the proposal “makes key investments that will go a long way toward strengthening Greater Minnesota communities.’’ The Minnesota Budget Project, a voice for disadvantaged residents, applauded the effort to “raise funds to invest in health care, child care, education, and transportation, to build broader prosperity that reaches every community.” Local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations are praising the major transportation upgrade in the proposals, as well as other improvments to infrastructure and public facilities projects in the bonding bill. The Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, an association of small business owners, is supporting the paid family leave and Minnesota Care buy-in proposal in the budget. And while some business leaders worried aloud that the budget imposes higher taxes and too many costs on business, a recent analysis by the North Star Policy Institute points out that Minnesota’s total business tax obligation is actually just below the national average among states. A note of bipartisan cooperation was sounded by Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. According to an Associated Press article, Gazelka said that proposals for expanding rural broadband, making schools safer, and increasing state aid to cities and counties are areas where Republicans and Democrats can find some common ground.
Few state policy organizations are more focused than Growth & Justice on coalescing rural and urban communities around action that builds a more equitable and sustainable prosperity, erasing geographic and demographic disparities and accelerating climate action. And we’re excited to now be attracting attention from other states around this unifying theme. G&J President Jane Leonard was invited recently to deliver the opening remarks in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a statewide conference with the theme “ReCONNECT Rural and Urban.” In an 8-minute YouTube video of her presentation, she summarizes our Thriving By Design process and our emerging Minnesota Equity Blueprint as a “rural-urban socioeconomic contract that will help achieve an inclusive economy, a just society, and a vibrant democracy.’’ Leonard was appointed President of Growth & Justice in 2018, partly on the strength of her status as a nationally-known community development leader. She served as President of the international Community Development Society in the 1990s and is Program Chair this year for the Society’s 50th Anniversary Conference, in Missouri.
“The unique role rural areas and people can play in climate mitigation, as well as the urgency they face in adapting to climate change, makes it especially critical for state resources to support rural communities in climate planning.” From the Rural Resilience Navigator, cited above.