David Branscum named 2019 Rural Advocate of the YearMay 15, 2019
David Branscum, state director for the USDA Office of Rural Development, has been named the 2019 Rural Advocate of the Year by the Arkansas Rural Development Commission. The honor was presented to Branscum by Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, during a luncheon held today at the annual Rural Development Conference at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
“David Branscum has spent his entire career working to improve the quality of life for rural residents throughout Arkansas,” Preston said. “I cannot think of anyone who deserves this honor more than David does. Because of the selfless commitment of people like David, our state is a better place.”
The Marshall native – a third-generation cattle rancher, farmer and small business owner – has dedicated more than four decades of his life to rural Arkansans through a number of endeavors. Seven of those years found him in the halls of the Arkansas State Capitol as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. There, he served on both the Agriculture and Health Committees and chaired the Legislative Council. He represented House District 83, which includes Newton County as well as parts of Boone, Carroll, Pope, and Searcy Counties.
In 2017, he resigned from the House after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Branscum’s appointment to the USDA.
Through the USDA’s Office of Rural Development, Branscum implements programs throughout Arkansas that are intended to improve the economy and quality of life in rural areas. The programs include single and multi-family housing loans, rural business development grants, community facility grants, and water and waste disposal monies. One of Branscum’s top priorities is the expansion of reliable and affordable broadband connectivity. Approximately $1 billion in grant money is available nationwide to expand broadband internet services to rural communities, and Branscum wants Arkansas to be a major player.
The USDA is also working to combat the opioid crisis in rural America by working with local leaders to address prevention, treatment and recovery options, including telemedicine and community facilities programs.
After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a degree in agriculture and economics, Branscum returned to Marshall to run the family farm and lumber business. He and his wife, Judy, have five sons.
Last year’s Rural Advocate of the Year was Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Past recipients have included many outstanding Arkansans who have been dedicated to rural Arkansas: former U.S. Senators Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, former Secretary of Agriculture Butch Calhoun, State Senators Missy Irvin, Larry Teague, Randy Laverty and James Scott, State Representatives Sam Angel, Phil Jacobs and Johnnie Bolin, Lake Village Mayor Jo Ann Bush, Rex Nelson, Annett Pagan, Donna Kay Yeargan, Former ARDC Chairman Bruce Leggitt, Sip Mouden, Randy Young, and Bob Summerville.