Despite the large sums of money spent to ostensibly support rural areas since the 1930s, a framework for assessing U.S. and Canadian rural policy is conspicuously absent, and thus there is little basis for assessing effectiveness of public policy and public expenditures in this area. The purpose of this paper is to propose a framework based on: 1) broad-based policy ob-jectives; 2) a small number of measurable targets that reflect these objectives; and 3) evaluation based on the latest methodological and data advances. We provide an overview of policies and programs in the U.S. and Canada that have been described as rural policy. Using basic descriptive evidence we show that to date the purported rural policy in both countries has generally failed to meet any broad-based objectives. We suggest that successful rural policy is primarily place-based, rather than being captured by tangential objectives such as support for particular sectors or initiatives such as environmental protection. We conclude by noting that government ministries that administer place-based (rural) policy should not have a sector-based orientation—rural policy should be removed from USDA and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.


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