In Minnesota, Rep. Rod Hamilton has long argued that rural concerns get neglected in St. Paul, where the number of farmers in the House stands at six — down from 14 as recently as 1995.
Hamilton, a Republican and pork producer, said he plans to work with other rural lawmakers from both parties in both chambers this session to protect shared interests against a leadership that's mostly from the Twin Cities area.
"You don't need that many votes to make an impact," he said.
Forming partnerships has been key for the only full-time farmer in the Maryland Senate, Thomas McLain "Mac" Middleton.
Maryland has some of the country's richest counties, but its poor, rural areas share many of the same problems as urban areas such as Baltimore — poverty, unemployment, teen pregnancies and lack of opportunities, Middleton said.
So he's made common cause with his urban counterparts to ensure that rural communities have access to education funding as well as high-speed Internet service.
Though his 250-acre farm has been in his family since the 1600s and his ancestors grew tobacco, Middleton converted the property mostly to agritourism. He hosts school groups and families to visit barnyard animals, take hay rides, navigate a corn maze or pick strawberries and pumpkins.
Broadband has been important to the growth of his and many other businesses in rural Maryland.
He said: "I fight real hard to make sure that rural communities don't get left behind."
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