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Improving Life in Rural America

The majority of South Dakota is rural. We’re a large state with a small population—we average just under 11 people per square mile. Comparatively, New York’s population density is nearly 40 times that, with approximately 421 people living per square mile. In New York City, the population jumps to more than 26,000 people per square mile. As Americans, we celebrate our country’s diversity and differences. But it also means we have unique challenges in different parts of the country. Rural and urban areas have different needs. Working as a senator from one of the most rural states, I’ve taken steps to shine a light on issues important to rural America and make sure the needs of rural communities are at the forefront of policy discussions in Washington. 


I recently partnered with Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to form the Bipartisan Senate Rural Working Group. Our group’s focus is to highlight what’s working in rural parts of the country, listen to people from our states about their concerns and find commonsense solutions to the unique challenges facing rural areas. My Senate office has been working on issues in rural areas since I took office, but collaborating with senators from other states and other political parties about what’s working and not working in their states can help us find the best possible solutions for South Dakota.


Our working group recently held our first meeting with groups that represent a wide range of rural priorities and topics. Our plan is to continue to partner with these groups so we can address the most challenging issues facing rural America, including reliable energy sources, adequate rural water systems, safe roads and bridges and access to services such as high-speed internet, essential air service, quality education, health care and lending services. We’ll also focus on affordable rural housing, veterans’ issues and tribal issues in rural areas.


While it may seem like a lot to tackle—and it’s true, there’s plenty of work to do—many of these issues are interconnected. We can work to expand broadband and create incentives for medical professionals to set up practices in rural areas, but we must also make sure local businesses have access to capital so they can grow and provide jobs for community members who will raise families in our small towns. We need to create opportunities for the next generation so that they have the ability to make a good living and raise their own families in their hometown.


South Dakota is the best place in the world to live and raise a family. We want to make sure it remains the best place in the world so our grandkids, great-grandkids and great-great grandkids get to enjoy it like we do. The success of rural America is vital for our state’s long-term economic health, as well as the prosperity of our nation. I’m looking forward to partnering with the other members of the working group to make changes that will benefit South Dakota.