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A host of economic, institutional, and political forces have thwarted the development of an appropriate comprehensive federal rural development policy in the U. S. This article examines those influences from an historical perspective. Some of the changes noted are the emergence of rural development leadership in agencies other than the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the birth of a new Congressional Rural Caucus, the formation of a National Rural Network of rural advocacy groups, and the coming realization that the destinies of central cities and rural areas are intertwined. An encouraging sign is the move toward a different type of rural policy governance in Washington, one in which a sensitivity to rural contexts and issues is being articulated in Transportation, Health and Human Services, and other program units that are not expressly rural-oriented. At the same time there continues to be too much emphasis placed on agriculture’s role in the rural economy, which leads to policies that cannot help most rural communities.


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