Rural lawmakers struggle to make themselves heard

STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press Published:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- They're an endangered species in state legislatures as more Americans move to cities and suburbs: the rural lawmaker who knows what it's like to run a farm.

Lawmakers and political experts say the dwindling numbers of farmers, ranchers and others who make their living off the land affects not just agricultural policy but other rural concerns -- highways, health care, schools and high-speed Internet access.

Indiana State Rep. Bill Friend, a pork producer, said it's challenging to explain modern farming to colleagues with no personal connections with agriculture.

One Colorado representative, rancher Jerry Sonnenberg, has floated a radical idea over his frustrations at not being heard. He's pushing a proposal for each of his state's 64 counties to have a single House seat instead of awarding representation according to population.