Building and Strengthening Our Rural Communities (Rep. Emanuel Cleaver)

Some may be surprised to find me as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1982 the Rural Housing and Economic Development Improvement Act of 2007, which passed this week. After all, no one would call my District rural. However, while I represent the largest city in Missouri, Kansas City, I also represent 600 family farms.

In Cass County alone, which lies partially in my District, over 100 farms have been in the same family for over 100 years. I am very proud to serve these “Century Farms

In this urbanized world, twenty percent of our nation’s population still lives in rural communities, yet far too many of these families live in conditions that are poor, inadequate or run-down. This bill will help improve overall quality of life by providing the needed resources to address the problem of substandard housing in rural America.

This is where my interest in this bill lies. I was born in my grandmother’s kitchen in rural Waxahachie, Texas and lived my early years in a shack my father paid about $1 a week to rent. My mother, father and three sisters all lived in two tiny rooms without running water. Back then, segregation was brutal and yet my father, Lucky Cleaver, managed to operate a small dry cleaning business on Main Street east of the courthouse square. It was probably one of the only black-owned businesses in Waxahachie at the time. It was tough going.

When we left Waxahachie to move closer to family in Wichita Falls, Texas, we moved into public housing — a considerable step up. I know first-hand the difficulties of trying to make ends meet in rural America. While I may have never been a farmer, I have known poverty in rural America. I not only saw it, I lived it. I believe the assistance we passed this week will help those who are struggling in the backbone of our nation. This is not about a handout; rather, it is about maintaining and building the communities that have sustained our nation for so long.

I would like to thank my friend and colleague Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) from my home state of Texas for his hard work and leadership on this legislation.