She also toured Vertical Malt in Crookston.

On the same day she toured Vertical Malt in Crookston and conducted a listening session on local and regional housing-related challenges, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) announced a new effort in the Senate to highlight what’s working in rural America, even in the face of a slumping farm economy. Smith said during a stop in East Grand Forks she will lead a new bipartisan Senate group to lead the initiative.


Smith said she is forming the bipartisan Senate “Rural Economic Working Group” along with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota to connect with people and organizations in rural communities who have come together to take on the many unique challenges that often hit rural areas hard.  She said the working group will seek out successful local ideas and partnerships and bring them back to Congress to spur efforts to restore economic prosperity in rural communities across the country.


“Right now there’s a lot of economic hardship in rural communities, as farm families, rural businesses and communities often find themselves hanging on by their financial fingertips as they struggle with the difficult farm economy,” Smith said.  “But I’ve been to rural communities and tribal areas across the state, where leaders and organizations are coming together to do unique and innovative things to not only create jobs and economic development, but also tackle local problems for their residents.  It’s inspiring, and I want to share their work with my colleagues and, in the process, continue to give hope to other struggling communities in Minnesota and across the country.”


Smith will spend the week in northwest Minnesota visiting farms and businesses, as well as conducting meetings on the rural housing shortage and addressing rural health care challenges. After departing Crookston, she was bound for for Red Lake Falls for a meeting at the Wheat Growers there.


Smith said her ongoing efforts to help rural America will include her push to quickly implement the Farm Bill that was signed into law late last year.  That legislation included her provisions to expand rural broadband services across the country, and her effort to increase the nation’s use of renewable fuels.


She said she also will continue to address the unique health care and housing needs in rural communities and push to expand the availability of mental health services for the growing number of people in rural areas struggling with stress and mental health issues.


Stakeholders and experts on local and area housing challenges spent more than an hour chatting with Smith at Valley Technology Park in Crookston. Check back later for more details on that discussion.