The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Troy Downing
Political Viewpoint 

Threats to Rural Communities


October 25, 2017

Rural America embodies the best of our nation. Tough, rugged, resilient and hard working. To me, it’s something that is quintessentially American, like a Charlie Russell painting. Something that can’t always be measured, yet is always felt.

Today, I worry about the serious threats facing our rural communities. These are communities that help one another, produce our food, extract energy and fuel our economy. I hear a lot of talk about the value of a Nation, State, County, or City. Normally, that is expressed in terms of gross product, or what can be produced or extracted from an area. But the true value of our rural communities lies in the people, the heritage, the communities bound by common interests, common good, church, family, and fellowship.

Now more than ever, the government is threatening our way of life through over regulation, increased taxes and a serious lack of investment in what matters most.

Technology: For many, it is hard to fathom that many parts of America lack access to technological advances. But this is of paramount importance and will continue to be so if our rural communities plan on competing. Technology has continued to become more important in farming as we see equipment that can be diagnosed remotely, sending operating data to the farmer as well as the factory. Decisions can also be made remotely about operations, fuel consumption, and precision.

These advances help our farmers increase efficiency and decrease cost. We must support and enhance our rural communities’ ability to connect to 21st century services if we want our farmers to continue to compete globally. But, this technology requires access. We need cellular and broadband access in rural America.

We as a state and nation need to invest in infrastructure. In Montana, I’m not talking about roads and bridges. I’m talking about cell coverage and high-speed internet access. Not only is this necessary to continue to be competitive in our Ag industry but it’s going to be necessary for our children’s education so they can compete and have the same access to the tools and information that the rest of America takes for granted. Being able to connect can also help children growing up in rural communities feel like they are not completely isolated, they can learn, communicate, and work locally without feeling compelled to leave.

On top of that, this is a significant safety issue. What happens when something bad occurs well outside of a coverage area? This can, in many cases, be a life-threatening problem if you can’t get help in a timely manner.

Water:Where water flows, food grows. The Milk River is the lifeline of the Hi-Line. This natural resource needs to be protected. Without the St. Mary’s diversion system, we may see catastrophic losses that could end up hurting the irrigators, wildlife, recreational land users, municipalities and sportsmen of northeastern Montana from Hill County to Valley.

Estate Taxes: Many farmers and ranchers in rural America have been doing as their grandparents and great grandparents have done. Earning an honest living through hard work, planting, harvesting, grazing cattle and ranching. Many are land rich and cash poor but have put food on the table for generations, raised their kids and built their communities.

What happens when a family member passes? The government gets in the way. Often the value of the land is high. Those family members who would take over are often forced to sell the family farm in order to pay estate and death taxes.

Sometimes the land may go to another farmer, or, sometimes it may go to land trust that locks it away- forever. This has the potential of ending a vital family legacy and is a direct threat to the future of our rural heritage. The “Death Tax” is properly named as it can cause the death of these family legacies.

Private Property Rights: Across the west there are special interest groups that work to crush private property rights. While I fully support and know how important access to our public lands are, private property rights cannot be trampled. For example, these special interest groups would take land out of private ownership and introduce ideas such as wild free-roaming bison to our farming communities. Farming is hard enough.

In rural Montana, these precious tax dollars that family farms and ranches cultivate are needed to provide even the most basic services. If we see private industry and private property rights continue to dwindle, we will see a reduction in infrastructure and services which could be the final blow to the end of rural America.

Our Future: We need to be smart about our choices and how they affect our rural communities. An exodus of human capital due to the lack of technological infrastructure can be prevented. Our children leaving the state because they cannot compete here in Montana with a better-connected world can be prevented. An erosion of small businesses and family farms when private land goes into the hands of special interests can and should be prevented.

Keeping families and communities together should be our focus. Let’s continue to speak out and support co-ops taking on rural infrastructure problems. Let’s invest in high-speed internet and cellular access so our farmers can compete and our children can thrive. Let’s put pressure on Congress to make sure that our families’ heritage doesn’t die when a family member does. The people of our rural communities are the heart of Montana and the heart of our Nation. We must continue to support and raise awareness for the issues that threaten our Montana way of life.

Troy Downing is seeking the Republican nomination to serve Montana in the U.S. Senate.


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