Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled a wide-ranging plan aimed at improving economic opportunity in rural America, with a call for more investment in a variety of food, agriculture and health programs.
Biden released the proposal during an appearance in Manning, Iowa.
What would it do?
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Biden’s plan calls for revamping trade policy to boost exports, increasing investment in renewable energy and rural broadband, and promoting the purchase of local and regional food products — priorities that are reminiscent of key pieces of the Obama administration’s rural and agricultural agenda.
The plan also aims to make American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions through a mix of incentives and by allowing farmers to participate in carbon markets.
Biden proposes a large expansion of an existing conservation program aimed at paying farmers to adopt environmentally friendly practices, especially those that help sequester carbon in the soil.
“This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet,” the plan says.
A whole section of the proposal is dedicated to rural health care issues. Biden said he would protect the Affordable Care Act, boost funding for rural hospitals and do more to deploy telehealth options, among other things.
Rural communities have generally been slower to recover from the Great Recession and are experiencing a brain drain as young people flock to urban areas with more robust job markets.
Farmers have also experienced a significant drop in income as commodity prices have gone down and President Donald Trump’s trade policies have sparked a rash of retaliatory tariffs against American agricultural products.
“For too many rural Americans, a pathway to the middle class is out of reach if they stay in their rural communities,” the Biden campaign says in the plan. “The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class, so that this time everyone comes along regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or zip code.”
What have other Democrats proposed?
The plan is generally in line with what a handful of other Democrats in the field have proposed, but is significantly less focused on antitrust and consolidation concerns compared with those from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Biden didn’t explicitly call for breaking up companies or blocking future mergers. Instead, a Biden administration “will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement” of existing antitrust laws.