We're working every day to bring our message of economic opportunity to voters in every ZIP code.
Throughout our country's history, Democrats have been a strong and united voice for rural Americans, recognizing the important bond between our nation's heritage and its future. We must support policies that will provide opportunity for Rural Americans and we must compete, engage, and organize in rural communities on a year-round basis.
From the Rural Electrification Act to the Recovery Act, Democrats have worked to foster economic development, increase scientific and energy innovation, and connect rural communities by closing the digital divide. A thriving Rural America starts with economic security and opportunity. Democrats will continue to fight on behalf of rural families, small businesses, and family farmers to expand economic development, create jobs, and protect and invest in rural America.
Democrats are committed to ensuring economic opportunity for family farmers, supporting rural economic development, and promoting rural America's leadership in developing renewable energy all with the goal of providing a sustainable economic environment for rural families.
Thanks to increased funding through the Affordable Care Act, community health centers across the country have been able to substantially increase the number of patients they serve. The ACA also expanded telehealth options for rural patients and tripled the number of National Health Service Corps clinicians working in underserved and rural communities. Unfortunately, we know that quality, affordable health care is still out reach for many in rural areas we've seen higher mortality rates and an opioid epidemic that has scourged communities from every corner of our country. Democrats are committed to ensuring that every American has access to quality, affordable health care and treatment. We have to protect the progress we've made and continue our commitment to expanding access to health care.
Democrats believe that farm programs should be designed to provide family farms with stability and consistency, protecting farmers from weather disasters and market disruptions and making sure that commodity payments are issued only to those farmers who need it most. We support programs that encourage microentrepreneur assistance, rural cooperative development grants, value-added producer grants, grants to minority producers, and cooperative research agreements.
Rural farmers have been an integral force in the development of renewable fuel sources. These efforts reflect a national goal to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil with domestic energy sources, supported by Democratic efforts to provide additional loans and grants to further this development.
We understand the importance of closing the digital divide, empowering rural Americans with the modern technology needed to improve business and educational opportunities. We must connect every household in America to high-speed broadband internet in order for rural America to grow its economy and generate new and exciting opportunities. We must continue to invest in rural teachers, pay them what they're worth, and provide them with the resources needed to enhance student achievement.
Educational opportunities in rural areas must extend to higher education as well. Community colleges often serve as fixtures in our communities, and Democrats will continue working to equip our next generation with the skills and education for future success by increasing access and affordability to institutions of higher learning. We believe that it's vital for skills to translate to the workforce, and Democrats want to help people grow their skills through jobs and training opportunities.