Percentage of rural Americans hits all time low

The U.S. Census confirms what most rural Americans already know.

It reported its 2010 Census showed the nation’s rural population stands at 16 percent of the country, the lowest in history. Gone are the days when the United States could see itself as an agrarian nation where the simple values of rural life lay the foundation for our democracy.

This was the world that Thomas Jefferson presided. In his United States farmers were clearly the nation’s most valuable citizens and economically, as well as philosophically, rural America could hold its own.

That has been changing for nearly 200 years as the Industrial Revolution drove people to the cities. Rural communities held their own well into the 20th Century.

But across the Great Plains and in much of the West, the changing economics of agriculture led to a steady drop in rural areas that were not recreation destinations. Kids left and businesses closed.

Without workers these communities, could not attract new businesses. Small businesses had a hard time holding on as big box stories in nearby large towns cut into their customer base.

As we are caught in the middle of a debate over how to cut the deficit one thing appears clear. We will continue to reduce the amount of federal money that goes to rural areas.

Fewer people means that funds for housing, transportation, education and medical services, which are distributed with formulas tied to population, will drop for rural communities. Add expected cuts in farm programs and the economic power of rural communities from Kansas to Oregon will drop.

Another trend that few people discuss also contributes to the disintegration of rural communities in states like Idaho that have large swaths of public land. The federal spending for natural resource and environmental programs has dropped dramatically from the 1970s to today.

When Cecil Andrus was Interior Secretary, agencies ranging from the Bureau of Reclamation, the Forest Service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service represented nearly 2.5 percent of the federal budget.

Beginning next year, after the effects of the stimulus spending are done, the trend will continue downward to less than 1 percent and by 2015 down to nearly .8 percent. Those who benefit from these programs, ranging from the timber industry to environmental groups want the public to understand that the big growth in government didn’t come from them.

So Idaho has been one of the fastest growing states in the union the last two decades but the rural gap widens. People have moved to the metropolitan areas ranging from the Treasure Valley to the Coeur d’Alene area and the corridor from Rexburg toward Pocatello.

Agrarianism, the idea that rural life is superior to urban life, run deep in America. My own roots, like many urban residents, reach back to a farm. I can relate to those who see positive traits in the rural lifestyle, inherently closer to nature than the traditional urban life.

How those values survive these population trends is uncertain.

farm boy Rock

So you are saying:
the "timber industry want[s] the public to understand that the big growth in government didn’t come from them."

Really? Wow, that is so profound Rock!
Who would have a thought 'someone' would accuse the timber industry of leading to big government?


And you think it is a "metropolitan areas" in the "corridor from Rexburg toward Pocatello".

Rigby? Rigby is metro? Blackfoot?
"Pa, we're going to the big city of Blackfoot. Get yer fancy hat on." Idaho Falls is barely a metropolitan area.


But best of all you think the "simple values of rural life lay the foundation for our democracy."

"Ah, I just love to wake up early to milk the cows and that's why I oppose taxation without representation. "

Rock, I just wanna know what "rural" school you went to -so I can avoid sending my children there.

Pimp2 kids?

I proudly attended Sandwich (Ill.) High School. I lived on a farm outside of Sandwich, population 5,000.


Sandwich High School!
You obviously went to lunch more often than English class?

Was your mascot Mr. McBurglar or just a plain Big Mac?

pimp2, While I don't always agree with Rocky,

I think personal attacks such as yours, regardless of who they're aimed at, carry things a little too far. Don't know what he's ever done to you personally to warrant such caustic remarks from you, maybe you could let us know....Sunny...

justifiable homocide

I understand what you are saying Sunny.
But when the "personal attacks" are related to his ability as a writer, since that IS his job on this site, I think it's open game. I'm sure he's a nice guy and would be charming to hang around the campfire with him to listen to his stories regardless of his accuracy- but that's not what we're doing here.

It's nothing personal- it's just his terrible/false/inaccurate/sloppy style of writing and the fact he is the sole source of environmental/resource reporting in the primary Idaho daily paper. I want to point that out so people realize his stuff is wrong- no trees in Yellowstone 40 years from now? There are naive people who might actually believe that garbage!

When Bill Clinton said, "I did not sleep with that woman..." and everyone called him on it- were those "personal attacks"?

pimp2, Thanks

Thanks for replying in an acceptable way, and stating your point of view, instead of going berserk and being overly defensive like so many on here have the habit of doing. In Clinton's case, if they had been talking about Hillary, I'da said the same thing as he did...Sunny...

So you called me out

for growing up in Sandwich!
A guy without the guts to give his name made fun of my hometown.


That about sums it up.
Unless you would like some whine to go with your baloney sandwich?

Yer crackin me up!


My name is Jim Bond. Does that make you feel better?

Wow. this is actually scary.

Wow. this is actually scary. rural people are fairly poor, at least where i live. But by all means, let's cut funding to conservation programs (which benefit folks far beyond the farm), schools (the gov't has reneged on their PILT obligations anyway), etc. We'll survive. you can't make us move to the cities. besides, who will grow your food?

I'll bet they got little capsules.


Too literal? I'm sorry you feel I have a Literal Agenda!