Building Wealth and Opportunity in Rural America
Cory has always run toward the toughest challenges — channeling our common pain into common purpose. As mayor of Newark, Cory turned around a city that for years had been looked down upon and left behind and ushered in the city’s biggest economic boom in decades. By thinking big, forming uncommon partnerships, and giving everyone a seat at the table, he changed Newark’s trajectory and created economic opportunity for its residents.
Today, rural America faces many of the same challenges facing cities like Newark; problems like unaffordable housing, lack of good jobs and access to health care, and unacceptable rates of child poverty transcend region and geography. And it also struggles with unique challenges: corporate concentration and Trump’s bungled trade war is devastating small family farmers and rural main streets; decades of federal disinvestment has left crumbling roads and bridges and an aging housing stock; and the opioid epidemic is exacting a devastating toll on families and communities across rural America.
Unlike President Trump, who promised to support rural America as a candidate but has only made things worse, Cory has actually delivered for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Despite our broken politics, Cory has been among the most productive members of the Senate, passing bipartisan bills to drive capital off the sidelines and into high-poverty communities and bring clean drinking water to rural and tribal communities. In the Senate, Cory is a leading voice on the crisis of corporate concentration in the agriculture sector and has introduced the most ambitious-ever legislation to support farm conservation in the fight against climate change.
Throughout our history, rural America has met its biggest challenges with its single greatest asset: its people. By empowering rural people and communities with strategic investments and policies designed by and for rural communities, we can usher in a new era of rural prosperity and national economic growth. We can live in a country where kids growing up in rural areas don’t have to move to find good work and raise a family; where small businesses can thrive and compete on a level playing field with big corporations; and where every community — not just a few cities on the coasts — is empowered and thriving.
Building vibrant rural communities, including rural communities of color. Cory would enact the most sweeping-ever agenda to improve quality of life in rural America.
- Ensure affordable housing for all by increasing the supply of affordable units and capping rental costs. Across rural America and Indian Country, stagnant job growth and flat wages have created an affordable housing crisis. Nearly half of all rural renters pay more than one-third of their salaries on rent. While housing supply is more plentiful, it is often older; for example, an estimated 40 percent of housing on Indian reservations is considered substandard. Cory’s housing plan takes the rural housing crisis head-on, calling for building more affordable units in rural areas and capping rental costs at 30 percent of income. He will also fight for manufactured and mobile homeowners, which make up 16 percent of owned units in rural areas, including by boosting protections for homeowners and incentivizing landlords to sell the underlying land to mobile park residents. Finally, he will properly fund the USDA 515 program, which provides loans to build apartments for low-income residents in rural areas, and the Housing Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration Program, which helps preserve and improve the availability of affordable rental units, and support housing issues specific to Indian Country, including by reauthorizing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act and boosting funding and technical assistance for tribal housing authorities.
- Guarantee access to broadband. Today, 30 percent of rural Americans still lack access to broadband. Cory would close the digital divide once and for all by making unprecedented federal investment for broadband in rural areas and Indian Country, updating and increasing flexibility in existing federal programs to better serve rural needs, automatically enrolling low-income families into the FCC Lifeline program, investing in rural cooperatives, and passing his Community Broadband Act to push back on efforts by internet service providers to restrict or prohibit municipal and cooperatively-owned broadband that could lower costs and improve access.
- Reimagine rural infrastructure. Cory would make an unprecedented $2 trillion direct federal investment in a robust infrastructure package that would create millions of good-paying jobs, provide a significant return on investment for taxpayers, increase our nation’s economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life for American families. Cory would also tailor new investments to the specific challenges and opportunities in rural America. For example, our government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year massively subsidizing rural transit across the country — and still, public transportation is either non-existent or inadequate in rural areas, typically operating in a fixed loop far from where people live or requiring days of advance notice to schedule a ride. Technology advances offer an opportunity to pilot new models of rural transit that provide better service at the same or lower cost — potentially transforming quality of life in rural America. Cory would test and scale new models of community-run ride-sharing to create a more dynamic and accessible rural transit system.
- Support rural public schools. Access to a high-quality public education should not depend on a child’s zip code. Cory will fight for funding to make pre-kindergarten for 3 and 4-year olds available to every child, fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and strengthen our public schools by investing additional resources in the schools that need them. And he will fight every day for teachers, who are doing some of the most important jobs in our country but are often underpaid and overworked. Cory would sign into law his RAISE Act, to raise teacher compensation by as much at $11,500, and his STRIVE Act, which would progressively eliminate student debt for teachers who commit to the profession, with full forgiveness after seven years of service, invest in teacher training, and expand the teacher tax credit to put more money into teachers’ pockets.
- Launch the “City 2030 Project” to boost surrounding rural areas. Cory would launch the most far-reaching commitment to regional hubs of economic and cultural dynamism — empowering small- and medium-sized cities to spearhead our nation’s broader economic growth by 2030 and beyond. The City 2030 Project would initiate a national competition to designate at least 50 small- and medium-sized cities for major investment. In doing so, we can ensure that vibrant regional economic hubs bring jobs and opportunity to local residents and surrounding rural communities. Leveraging resources from across multiple federal agencies, investment in designated communities would be tailored to the assets and opportunities of each place — whether it is doubling down on a dynamic local food economy, investing in tech and R&D, or building on cultural inheritances like music or art. By 2030, we will have a growing network of world-class cities, lifting the quality of life for people in the entire region through an increasing array of amenities, including better education, health care, arts, and culture.
Drive investment and economic opportunity in rural America. It’s past time the wealthiest households and corporations pay their fair share to build a stronger, more prosperous economy. But we can’t just be talking about taxing wealth; we need serious proposals for building wealth too. Cory’s plan will drive small business growth and revitalize rural main streets in every corner of the country.
- Help rural businesses compete on a level playing field by reining in corporate concentration. For decades, rising concentration has enabled ever larger corporations to use their monopolistic power, while the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have failed to preserve competition and economic opportunity for communities, businesses, and workers. Rural communities, and especially rural communities of color, have been hit especially hard, as massive corporations have hollowed out main streets, decimated community banks, and drained communities of local wealth. Cory’s plan to clean up this broken system will ensure that local businesses can grow, including by blocking dangerous mergers, strengthening penalties for corporations engaging in anti-competitive practices, and affirmatively reducing concentration where mergers and other anti-competitive practices are driving wealth and opportunity out of communities.
- Close the capital gap and help more rural businesses get the resources they need to grow and compete. Cory would expand access to debt and venture capital by reauthorizing and expanding the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Cory’s plan includes a $1.5 billion federal investment, matched dollar-for-dollar by states, to expand access to capital in underserved communities and among women and minority entrepreneurs. Building on evaluations of the Obama-era initiative, the program would unleash up to $30 billion in new small business credit for our economy.
- Unleash new investment into rural communities. Opportunity zones, a tax incentive based on Cory’s bipartisan legislation to drive investment into high-poverty communities, has been touted as perhaps the most ambitious economic development tool to come out of Congress in a generation, and has the potential to drive billions of dollars of private capital off the sidelines and into small businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure in rural areas. Cory would enact concrete reforms to the program, including his bill to strengthen accountability and transparency measures, to ensure opportunity zones live up to the original promise to create jobs, boost local businesses, and deliver real impact to long-time residents.
- Make our trade policy work for farmers and rural communities. Farmers and ranchers have borne the brunt of Trump’s misguided trade war. Cory would take aggressive action to combat China’s unfair trade practices, working with our allies to develop a coherent trade policy that holds China to account and puts American workers on an equal playing field. Cory will give independent family farmers and workers a seat at the negotiating table, making clear that he will only support trade deals that put American workers and communities at their center, with strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards. He will also reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling to create a fair marketplace and provide information so consumers can support local farmers and ranchers.
- Spark entrepreneurial ecosystems in every state. Cory would create a 50-State Start-Up Accelerator Program, seeded with $25 million, and focused on supporting the creation and expansion of startup incubators and accelerators based in geographically underserved areas and serving underrepresented founders, including women, people of color, and veterans. Grants would be awarded to entities that can demonstrate the active engagement of community partners, including anchor institutions, community colleges and training providers, and community banks.
- Engage every community in the transition to a clean energy economy. Cory’s climate plan calls for a $400 billion investment by 2030 to fund a Moonshot Hub in all 50 states, each charged with tackling the most important and difficult challenges in basic science, applied research, manufacturing, and commercialization in their dedicated field. Just as Pittsburgh, PA and Mobile, AL have emerged as world leaders in autonomous vehicles and aerospace, respectively, places like Ames, IA and Las Cruces, NM can lead the nation and the world in a swift and equitable transition to a net-zero carbon economy.
- Invest in cooperatives. Throughout our history, people in rural America have used co-ops to empower themselves to solve big problems. Through major boosts to technical assistance for co-op development and greater flexibility to existing federal programs so that co-ops can participate, Cory would support a new generation of rural co-ops tackling some of our biggest challenges, from helping Baby Boomers convert their businesses to worker- or consumer-owned, to combating rural “food deserts,” to helping rural people and farmers capture the value of big data.
- Expand local food systems. Across the country, communities are investing in local food systems to ensure access to healthy food, create economic opportunity, and build local wealth. Cory would fight to pass his Climate Stewardship Act, which would increase funding for the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) by 10 times, providing flexible funding to support farmers markets, local and regional food enterprises, and value chain coordination. He would also leverage the purchasing power of the federal government and encourage other businesses and public entities, such as schools, hospitals, prisons, and other community institutions to become reliable new markets for local producers and businesses by sourcing foods produced in their region.
Help our farmers and ranchers compete on a level playing field.
- Tackle corporate concentration in the ag sector and create a fair marketplace for farmers and ranchers. Cory will fight to pass his Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act, which would put a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the food and agricultural sector to restore competition to the marketplace and allow our farmers and ranchers to share in the prosperity they help create. He will fight to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act, end tournament payment systems and create price transparency.
- Reform Commodity Checkoff Programs. Farmers and ranchers pay a mandatory fee, referred to as a checkoff, when they sell commodities like cattle, hogs, soybeans. But the organizations receiving the bulk of these funds are plagued with scandal, and sometimes work against the interests of the farmers they are supposed to support. Cory will sign into law his bipartisan Opportunity for Fairness in Farming Act, which would prohibit conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices, and require more transparency in checkoff programs.
- End the abuse of RFS small refinery waivers that weaken renewable energy development. Renewable energy sources like ethanol are important in boosting rural economies and our nation’s broader energy security. As president, Cory will immediately end the disgraceful granting of RFS small refinery waivers to big oil companies. He would also fully restore the demand destroyed by these RFS waivers and strengthen the RFS by increasing transparency and accountability of the EPA.
- Invest over $100 billion by 2030 through existing USDA conservation programs. In FDR’s New Deal, the federal government planted billions of trees, provided conservation incentives to family farmers and ranchers, created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and electrified rural America. Cory would double down on these approaches by passing his Climate Stewardship Act, the most ambitious-ever investment in farm conservation in the fight against climate change, which will make farms more climate resilient and enable our farmers and ranchers to be part of the climate change solution.
- Substantially increase funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), so that farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses can make energy efficiency improvements and build out renewable energy projects such as on-farm installation of solar panels or wind turbines.
- Provide justice to farmers of color. Throughout the 20th century, discriminatory and racist policies by the USDA and private lenders restricted access to credit and crop insurance and stripped land from farmers of color. The impact was striking: in 1920, about one in seven farm operations in the U.S. were operated by Black farmers; in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, less than two percent of farmers in the US were Black. As president, Cory will create a new fund to begin to remedy these injustices, including a progressive land trust to maintain and expand the land ownership of Black farmers and other support to help resolve heirs’ property issues. Cory will further empower the next generation of farmers of color by massively increasing funding to 1890 Land Grant Universities, and ramping up technical assistance and outreach for farmers and ranchers of color. And finally, he will create a task force comprised of a diverse set of stakeholders, including impacted farmers and civil rights organizations, to issue recommendations also overhaul the structure, staffing, and processes of the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and strengthen oversight of the Department to ensure justice and opportunity for all farmers.
- Stop the growth of mega industrial livestock operations. Federal farm policy and the unchecked power of multinational corporations has led to significant shifts in American livestock production. Cory believes that we should have more independent diversified family farmers stewarding the land, not fewer. He will fight for a moratorium on new mega operations and invest heavily in helping family farmers transition to more profitable and regenerative farming practices.
Ensure economic security and opportunity
- Empower working people in rural communities. Wages in rural America are stubbornly flat — and many workers haven’t gotten a raise in years. Cory will fight to enact his plan to bring justice and opportunity to American workers, including by transitioning to a $15 minimum wage, enacting his “Rise Credit,” a massive expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit that will provide a working couple with up to $8,000 each year, and strengthening workers’ rights to join a union and expand opportunities for worker organizing, including new models like sectoral bargaining. He will also fight for the farmworkers who live and work in so many rural communities, starting with passing the Fairness for Farmworkers Act, which would end decades of discriminatory policy and extend labor law protections like minimum wage and overtime pay to farmworkers.
- Make high-quality child care accessible to everyone. In more than half of states, center-based child care costs more than tuition at the local public university. Families in rural areas spend an average of 12 percent of their income on child care, forcing many parents to rely on lower-quality care, leave the workforce, or give up educational opportunities altogether. Building on the framework of the Child Care for Working Families Act, Cory would fight for legislation to make a sweeping federal investment in high quality child care to make it affordable for all working families and free for low-income families.
- Allow every American to take paid family and medical leave when they need it. The U.S. is the only industrialized country with no national paid family leave policy. Cory would build on the FAMILY Act, and would fight for workers to be able to take six months of paid time off when they need to care for themselves or a loved one, like a child, partner, or parent. Cory’s plan for paid family and medical leave would provide up to full wage replacement for the lowest-income workers.
- Invest in rural community colleges and workforce development. In many rural areas, community colleges are essential anchors for continuing education, workforce development, and community life. Cory would pass the America’s College Promise Act, which would waive tuition and fees for two years of community and technical colleges, and would build on efforts by the Obama administration to allow students taking courses at community and technical colleges to access Federal Pell Grants beginning in high school. Cory would also increase investment in apprenticeships and workforce training programs that partner with unions and worker-led organizations, and expand our existing workforce training programs to include industry-wide sectoral programs that serve the needs of multiple employers in a local labor market. Additionally, he would fight to pass his PROSPECT Act, which would help provide child care for student-parents attending community colleges and minority-serving institutions.
- End child poverty. Today in America, one in six children — and even more in rural areas and Indian Country — live in households with incomes below the federal poverty line. These kids face a fundamental injustice from the very start; growing up without enough income to afford the basics is linked to problems with brain development, lower educational attainment, reduced long-term earnings, worse health outcomes, and greater likelihood of interacting with the criminal justice system. Cory was the first candidate to put out a plan singularly focused on strengthening the safety net and ending the moral obscenity of child poverty. His plan, which creates a universal “child allowance” for families with kids, ends childhood hunger, and provides safe, affordable housing, would cut rural child poverty by more than two-thirds, and set us on a path to ending rural child poverty altogether.
Guaranteeing quality health care in every rural community. In one of the richest countries on the planet, no American should go bankrupt because of medical bills or be forced to choose between groceries and prescription drugs, between paying their rent and seeing a doctor. As President, Cory will fight for Medicare for All, because healthcare is a human right. Cory will fight for universal coverage, and beginning on Day One, he will use every available tool to expand access, lower costs and improve health outcomes for everyone.
- End the crisis of closing hospitals and shortage of health care professionals in rural America. Rural communities face unique challenges when it comes to access to health care. Nearly 120 rural hospitals have closed since 2010 alone, and many communities face a shortage of rural health professionals. Cory would update merger guidelines and antitrust enforcement priorities to crack down on corporate concentration and prioritize rural hospital access and workers and increase reimbursement rates for rural hospitals. At the same time, he would invest in community health centers (FQHCs), which are a vital source of primary care for millions of people in underserved rural communities, and increase funding for critical access clinics to meet emergency and outpatient needs in rural areas and be well-integrated to larger hospital systems, particularly in communities that have seen rural hospital closures. Cory will also invest in student loan repayment programs, like the National Health Service Corps, and expand the Conrad 30 waiver program, to encourage providers to serve in rural and other underserved areas. Finally, Cory will work with states, health systems, and other stakeholders to expand access to telehealth, particularly in rural and other underserved areas; that includes passing his MOMMIES Act, which would promote telemedicine for maternal health.
- Rein in drug prices. Cory will fight every day to lower the cost of prescription drugs and put us on a path to Medicare for All. That starts with passing his legislation to permit the importation of drugs from Canada and other countries, allowing Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices, and passing his bill to create the Bureau of Prescription Drug Affordability and Access, which would review the cost of all prescription drugs and take patent protections away from pharmaceutical companies that overcharge.
- Guarantee access to long-term care. Many Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives. And the need for long-term care is growing; by 2050, the American 65-and-older population, disproportionately rural, will more than double, growing from 47.8 million to 88 million, while the 85-and-older population will more than triple, growing from 6.3 million to 19 million. It’s not just seniors that rely on long-term support: people with disabilities under the age of 65 make up 42% of recipients of Medicaid-funded long-term services and supports. Cory’s plan to bring dignity and choice to long-term care would expand Medicaid to cover long-term services and supports for every low- and middle-income American and give everyone a choice to live at home.
- Fight for veterans’ access to health care. We call ourselves the home of the brave, but we don’t do nearly enough to support and honor our brave veterans and their families. About one in 10 rural adults are veterans, and in some rural counties, veterans make up as many as one in four. Cory will fight against privatization of the VA, and ensure world class VA health care, including mental health services, that is accessible and easy to navigate. He will ensure that the Veterans Health Administration provides gender-inclusive and accessible services, including access to gynecologists and obstetricians, sexual trauma counselors, therapists, and other medical personnel to address the unique needs of military women and women veterans.
- Fight the opioid epidemic. Cory will massively increase access to non-opioid treatment options and hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic. He will also invest $100 billion over 10 years through competitive grants to states, cities, counties, and nonprofit entities, and $800 million to tribal governments, to combat drug addiction and funnel money to communities — particularly those hit the hardest by drug overdoses — to boost spending on addiction treatment, harm reduction services, and prevention programs.
- Invest in and protect access to mental health. The ravages of mental illness and addiction have touched every corner of this country, and especially in rural America. Cory will strengthen and enforce the federal parity law, which prevents insurers from denying coverage for mental health care at higher rates than they do for other kinds of care. He will also invest in programs that provide more mental health services in our schools and on the campuses of our colleges and universities.
- Cut suicide rates. The rate of firearm suicides in rural America is nothing short of an epidemic — suicide rates in rural counties are about 25 percent higher than they are in major metropolitan areas. Cory has put forward the most sweeping-ever plan to combat gun violence, and is the only candidate to put forward a plan specifically focused on firearm suicide.
Safeguarding every rural community’s right to clean water and air. Cory has put forward the most-ambitious-ever plan to advance environmental justice, ridding communities of the scourge of legacy pollution, and replacing it with clean land, air and water — bringing economic and environmental justice to those who have for too long been denied both.
- Prevent flooding, promote soil health, and protect our drinking water. Cory will invest in conservation practices, including reforestation and planting of cover crops, to reduce flooding on and off farms during heavy rainfall, reduce harmful algal blooms, and limit nutrient runoff that threatens the drinking water of millions of Americans.
- Eliminate lead from the water we drink and the air we breathe. It is a national disgrace that any child could be poisoned by the air they breathe or the water they drink — and our government does virtually nothing about it. According to a 2017 study, 1.2 million children in the U.S. have unsafe blood lead levels — which is linked to learning disabilities, school suspensions, and potentially even increased rates of crime, as well as increased mortality. Cory’s plan for environmental justice calls for replacing all lead drinking water service lines and remediating all schools and housing units that contain peeling or chipping lead-based paint and high levels of lead-contaminated dust.
- Ensure every American has adequate plumbing. Lack of access to wastewater system is overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas and Indian Country: more than 600,000 people in rural communities live in homes without adequate plumbing, and a full one in eight Native Americans do not have reliable access to water. Cory’s environmental justice plan will ensure that every American has adequate plumbing, including a functional wastewater disposal system. More than 600,000 rural Americans live in homes without adequate plumbing.
- Hold corporate integrators legally responsible for the harm caused by concentrated animal feeding operations. Cory’s plan to advance environmental justice will include provisions that hold corporate integrators — who make billions of dollars of profits each year — legally responsible for the harm and pollution they cause.
- Increase funding for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Cory would boost funding of each program to $7 billion per year, and require that new resources be dedicated solely to practices that scientists have identified as having the most potential greenhouse gas benefits, including planting cover crops, using less nitrogen fertilizer, and practicing prescribed grazing. These investments would not only engage over 100 million new acres in conservation practices, but would also make farms more resilient in the face of future extreme weather, reduce on- and off-farm flooding, and protect the drinking water of millions of Americans from nitrate runoff.
- Plant four billion trees by 2030 and 16 billion trees by 2050. Cory would pass his Climate Stewardship Act, which calls for planting billions of trees on a combination of federal, state, local, tribal and NGO lands guided by the best available science. By the end of the century these trees will sequester over 13 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions - an amount equal to more than two full years of total current U.S. emissions. In addition, Cory will create a new program to provide incentives to private forest owners to engage in practices which sequester additional carbon.
- Protect our public lands. As mayor of Newark, Cory oversaw the largest park expansion in over a century. Cory also worked with the Trust for Public Land on a ballot initiative to create a City Open Space Trust Fund, which now provides an ongoing source of funding for recreation and conservation projects in Newark. Cory’s plan to combat climate change would safeguard our public lands and ensure that every American can enjoy them — today and for decades to come.
Rethinking how government works to serve rural America. It’s time we recognize that what works for big cities on the coasts may not work for rural communities. Cory would reorient federal policy to give rural families and places a fair shot.
- Re-establish and elevate the White House Rural Council. The solutions to complex challenges in rural America — from elevated poverty rates to substandard housing to stagnant wages — are not neatly confined to individual federal programs and agencies. Cory would re-establish and empower a White House Rural Council, focused on breaking down silos and working across federal agencies to deliver results for rural families and communities. The Rural Council would be headed by a senior White House advisor singularly focused on designing and executing Cory’s vision for rural America.
- Build local capacity. Many rural communities struggle to compete for outside attention and investment, limiting their ability to realize their vision for economic growth. While affluent towns and cities are often boosted by active local partner organizations, engaged philanthropy, and professional grant writers, such assets are often non-existent elsewhere; in many rural places, for example, it is the part-time mayor tasked with filling out grant applications on her dining room table after work. While federal funding is important, so too is local capacity. Cory would invest in evidence-based interventions to empower communities to shape their own future, including through planning grants, technical assistance to engage with philanthropy and other partners, and improvements to data systems to enhance implementation and track impact.
- Target federal resources to the communities that need them most. Every year, the federal government sends billions of dollars in loans and grants to communities and local organizations to support essential priorities, from economic development to access to health care to entrepreneurship. But often, the communities that need help the most — persistent poverty counties, Black and Brown communities, and rural communities — aren’t competing on a level playing field with big cities and more affluent communities. Cory would sign into law his bill with Rep. Jim Clyburn that builds on the “10-20-30” framework and ensures that a major share of federal dollars go to rural communities in deep and persistent poverty.