Governor John Bel Edwards just announced new efforts to revitalize Louisiana’s rural communities that are in crisis.
By executive order, Gov. Edwards formed a task force to address problems in the state’s outlying and underpopulated areas affected by poor education, economic development, and healthcare access.
A maximum of 34 appointees will help identify the needs of Louisiana’s rural residents and devise legislative solutions.
Last month, a state audit identified 16 small towns and parishes that are on the brink of financial collapse. The report cited depopulation and loss of agriculture jobs as the main causes. Since 1960, the number of farm jobs in the state has shrunk by nearly 80 percent.
Mike Strain, the Commissioner of Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry, will serve on the task force. He says broadband internet is a crucial step in developing these communities.
"Rural uniform broadband access is a very important component of communication for rural healthcare, rural education, and rural commerce."
Matthew Fannin, professor of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness at Louisiana State University, says entrepreneurship training is the most robust way to revitalize rural towns.
"Local enterpreneurs create jobs that are rooted in their community. They hire locally and invest in their region."
Governor Edwards will give his advisory committee until Jan. 5, 2021 to come up with a “comprehensive strategic plan."