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New Homestead Act Would Revitalize Rural America

July 13, 2002

Your July 8 editorial "The Ever Quieter Country" struck the right tone concerning the reality of life in rural America.

"Reaching for Rural Renewal" (July 2) documented that some in the heartland perceive the idea of keeping yesterday alive as "stupid," and many believe the spirit of the past may not be rekindled in some small-town areas. However, these attitudes from the heartland are not universally shared. And, as your editorial points out, this emphasis misses the greater point of the new Homestead Act.

Of course life in the countryside would not be exactly like it used to be, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be an effort to at least make living in these areas feasible. Tax breaks for business investments and student-loan forgiveness are two practical ideas that could make living in the country possible for some who would prefer an alternative to urban living. Despite the difficulty of getting this legislation passed, it would certainly benefit all of us to keep the diverse opportunities of rural America alive.

Keith A. Good

Springfield, Ill.

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Imagine my surprise when I opened my copy of The Times on July 2 and saw pictures of my hometown, Clarkson, Neb., and nearby Leigh, Neb., in a story about dying Midwestern farm towns. Clarkson (and the surrounding area) supports a beauty shop, feed store and elevator, service station, decorator shop, florist, veterinary clinic, newspaper, doctor, insurance agency, bars, churches, cafe, grocery and general store (family-owned and operated for three generations), an implement company, bank, hardware store, nursing home and the Bluebird Nursery, which employs more than 100 people during its busy season and ships items all over the U.S.

Cheers to Sens. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who refuse to write off rural America as a relic. These communities--and the people who live and work there--are no different from suburbanites. My nephew and his family live in the country, with a Clarkson address, and he commutes 35 miles to David City, another small town, to his job in a tractor/trailer-building plant. Many of us think nothing of a 35-mile commute.

The residents of farming communities may not be able to purchase all of their needs locally, but most of us right here don't shop only within five miles of our homes either. Packed outlet malls attest to this fact. I support the new Homestead Act.

Barbara Grady

Fullerton

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