Crisis on the Plains

May 9, 2003 • Volume 13, Issue 18
Can dying rural communities be saved?
By Brian Hansen

Introduction

Michelle and Michael Clark of Custer County, Neb., with son Levi, want to stay and farm, but many young people in the rural Great Plains have left for jobs in urban areas.  (AP Photo/Kearney Hub, Lori Potter)
Michelle and Michael Clark of Custer County, Neb., with son Levi, want to stay and farm, but many young people in the rural Great Plains have left for jobs in urban areas. (AP Photo/Kearney Hub, Lori Potter)

An exodus of young people from the rural Great Plains is tolling a death knell for hundreds of small communities. Experts blame the decline on such factors as the rise of agribusiness, the lack of cultural amenities and the federal farm-subsidy program, which they say mainly benefits large farms. Meanwhile, the number of Native Americans and buffalo on the plains has rebounded. Some experts say the federal government should try to lure residents and businesses to rural areas with financial incentives, much as the Homestead Act attracted 19th-century settlers with free land. Others call for reforms to farm subsidies. But some say stemming the depopulation of the region is impossible, and that it should be transformed into nature reserves for wildlife, Native Americans and tourists.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Rural America
Mar. 31, 2017  Reviving Rural Economies
May 09, 2003  Crisis on the Plains
Jul. 20, 1990  The Continuing Decline of Rural America
May 06, 1988  Should Family Farms Be Saved?
Nov. 23, 1979  Rural Health Care
Aug. 15, 1975  Rural Migration
Feb. 09, 1939  Economic Changes in the Southern States
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Farm Loans, Insurance, and Subsidies
Regional Planning and Urbanization