The focus of RUPRI’s State Policy Programs is state-level policies and programs that have broad (i.e., not sector-specific) impact. We conduct research on the institutions responsible for those programs and disseminate the results of that research to state policy makers across the nation. This works revolves principally around two sets of actors, state rural policy centers and state legislators.
State Rural Policy Centers
Our work with state rural policy centers consists of identifying state-level agencies that have broad (i.e. not sector-specific) responsibilities and whose purview is statewide. Some of those agencies are true state government agencies, like Texas’ ORCA or Pennsylvania’s Center for Rural Pennsylvania; others are private non-profits, generally with significant state government involvement, like the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center; others are divisions within a governor’s office (Oregon), within another state agency (Georgia, Utah), at a university (Illinois) or along the RDC model (Maryland, Vermont).
Our mission is to learn how such agencies came about, what they do, how they have survived and evolved over time, and so on -- all in an effort to assist the agencies through information-sharing, and to assist states and policy makers contemplating creating such an agency.
The research includes those agencies’ interactions with other rural players, such as the RDC’s, COG’s/RPC’s, and coop extension, so that it is really a study of the structure and dynamics of rural policy at the state level -- but as practiced beyond the sector-specific level.
In 2005 RUPRI facilitated the development of the Coalition of State Rural Policy Centers, and informal organization that brings the directors of 10 state rural policy centers together in a mutual learning network.
Coalition of State Policy Centers: Overview
The Minnesota Model for Rural Development
Rural Centers in the South
Parallel to the work on state rural policy centers, we work with state legislators to raise awareness and information levels about rural policy. Some of this work is one-on-one, but much of it is through the national and regional legislative organizations, notably the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), and State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL). We work with the rural committees of those associations having jurisdiction over rural affairs (usually “agriculture and rural development”, or similar), to develop educational sessions and conferences for rural legislators.
In this capacity, RUPRI is a founding sponsor of the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit now in its sixth year. We have conducted full-day rural policy seminars for NCSL in Salt Lake City and Seattle and for SLC in Little Rock. We help to plan or provide programming content for numerous educational sessions of these and other organizations.
State Rural Initiatives: Where the Money Comes From
A research report compiled for the Fourth ANnual Agriculture Chairs Summit (2006)
Bobby Gierisch serves as RUPRI’s director of state policy programs. Bobby worked in Texas government for 25 years, most of those with the Texas legislature, and the last 10 of them as director of policy for the Speaker of the Texas House. Beginning in 2000, Texas began a significant study of measures the state could take to benefit rural citizens, and Bobby was the staff director for that study. As a result of the study, Texas created a new executive branch agency, the Office of Rural Community Affairs, in 2001.Bobby began his state policy work with RUPRI in 2003.
State Policy Programs - Partners
National Conference of State Legislatures (www.ncsl.org)
Council of State Governments (www.csg.org)
State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (http://www.agandruralleaders.org/)
Southern Legislative Conference (http://www.slcatlanta.org/)
Indiana Rural Development Council (www.in.gov/irdc)
Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (http://www.in.gov/ocra/)
Vermont Council on Rural Development (http://www.vtrural.org)
Utah Center for Rural Life (http://utahreach.org/ucrl/)
The Center For Rural Pennsylvania (www.ruralpa.org)
Minnesota Center for Rural Policy and Development (www.ruralmn.org)
North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center (www.ncruralcenter.org)
Rural Maryland Council (http://www.ruralforvm.state.md.us/)
Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (http://www.iira.org)
Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs (www.orca.state.tx.us)