Across the country, mom-and-pop markets are among the most endangered of small-town businesses, with competition from corporations and the hurdles of timeworn infrastructure pricing owners out. In Minnesota, 14 percent of nonmetropolitan groceries have closed since 2000. In Kansas, more than 20 percent of rural markets have disappeared in the last decade. Iowa lost half of its groceries between 1995 and 2005. The phenomenon is a “crisis” that is turning America’s breadbaskets into food deserts, said David E. Procter, a Kansas State University professor whose work has focused on rural food access, erasing a bedrock of local economies just as rural communities face a host of other problems.In New York or Los Angeles, the loss of a favorite establishment is an event to be mourned. But in this ranch town, where the closest reliably stocked market is 40 miles away, the threat to R&R Market raises questions about the community’s very survival. Those who want to take on these stores can find it impossible to buy. If you’re poor — and many people in these towns are — and interested in a risky deal, few banks will give you a loan.
The most critical commentary came from a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A. Barton Hinkle wondered whether state government should even bother trying to help rural communities. “If [rural residents] can improve their economic circumstances by moving to urban areas, then why not let them?” he asked.If that means rural communities depopulate themselves, so what? “You could argue that, environmentally speaking, it might be better to keep some swaths of the state unpopulated,” Hinkle wrote. These libertarian sentiments may seem shocking to many rural residents, in much the same way that Parisians were shocked by the quote often attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.” They aren’t new, though. In fact, the question of whether the state and federal government should even try to save rural economies is one that’s been asked before. The conservative writer Kevin Williamson expressed the same view a year ago in a controversial piece in The National Review, in which he looked at Garbutt, a former gypsum-mining town in upstate New York. Williamson argued that efforts to save the town are “the indulgence of absurd sentimentality” — and a waste of taxpayers’ money. He went on to say that many rural communities “deserve to die.”“Economically, they are negative assets,” Williamson wrote. Residents of rural communities “need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.” Ouch.Unfortunately, President Trump is effectively putting that economic policy into practice, he’s just not saying it so bluntly. His budget zeroes out the very agencies that have paid for economic development infrastructure in rural communities — starting with the Appalachian Regional Commission. Congress probably won’t go along with a lot of those proposed cuts, but Trump’s budget does underscore an important point: Struggling rural communities probably can’t count on Washington, which puts more onus on state governments to intervene.Or not.From our vantage point outside the urban crescent, we naturally disagree with Hinkle’s premise — but he does ask a very good question. Why should state government care what happens in rural Virginia?
The efforts of eight states to enact work requirements for Medicaid recipients could create special problems for rural participants, according to a new study. Researchers Andrew Schaefer and Jessica Carson at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire found that one in four of potentially impacted Medicaid participants already worked at least part of the previous year or were motivated to work but could not find a job.“As state policymakers consider Medicaid-related work requirements, it is worthwhile to consider the administrative costs of implementing this kind of [work requirement] waiver alongside the benefits of cost savings associated with reducing Medicaid rolls, and the expenses related to increasing the uninsured low income population,” the researchers said. “In both rural and urban places, legislators should consider whether the consequences to families losing health insurance coverage outweigh the relative benefits of enforcing work requirements.” Rural residents participate in Medicaid at a higher rate than metropolitan residents. And rural areas generally have greater unemployment rates or discouraged workers.MaryBeth Musumeci, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, has also studied state-level proposals to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. “The data shows that most Medicaid recipients who can work are already working. There are some additional risks with the work requirements proposals that could complicate the implementation and administration of the program. We’re concerned that many eligible people, especially low and moderate income working people, would fall through the cracks.”
When communities sit down to set economic goals, they should expect realistic results. Communities may get excited about attracting data centers, for example, which you can’t entice without high-speed Internet. But data centers don’t require a lot of workers, it’s easy to lose money operating them. On the other hand, such a business could generate other jobs indirectly.
In the last six years, three small towns in northeast Iowa have built whitewater courses, creating an unlikely Mecca for paddling and tubing enthusiasts in the Midwest. The projects get credit for helping support local economies and reviving the region’s historical focus on waterways. In all, three towns, the courses run through the middle of downtown, which makes for a unique whitewater experience. “When you’re in the wave, you look up river to the stone bridge and through the waterfalls up river,” says Pollock. “To the right you see the county courthouse clock tower, it’s a really beautiful view.”
Ask advocates of marijuana legalization how their cause fared during the 2017 state legislative sessions and they’ll tell you that though the gains were incremental, they’re hopeful that several legislatures will eventually make possession and sale of the federally prohibited drug legal. Ask the same of people who oppose legalization and they’ll say it’s been a banner year — they choked efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in many statehouses and stalled implementation of pot sales in at least one other.Lawmakers in at least 23 states considered legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana this year and 16 states weighed bills to establish medical marijuana programs.But even as public support for marijuana continues to grow, few of those measures survived. That’s in part because many lawmakers are concerned that the Trump administration may begin strict enforcement of federal drug laws, political analysts say. Many legislators are also beholden to conservative supporters and face little political pressure to sign off on marijuana legislation, the analysts say.
Massachusetts police do not have the authority to detain illegal immigrants solely to buy time for federal law enforcement officials to take them into custody the state's top court ruled. The decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs and Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that doing so amounts to a fresh arrest of the person that is not authorized by state law, in the first such ruling to apply to an entire state, according to Massachusetts' attorney general."Massachusetts law provides no authority for Massachusetts court officers to arrest and hold an individual solely on the basis of a Federal civil immigration detainer, beyond the time that the individual would otherwise be entitled to be released from State custody," the court wrote in its decision.
The price of marijuana is going up — for Ohio taxpayers.The State Controlling Board, a legislative panel that oversees state expenditures, on Monday approved an additional $6 million to pay for startup expenses for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Program. That brings the total to about $11 million so far that taxpayers have paid for the program. In separate votes, the board approved an additional $1.6 million for the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and $4.4 million for the Ohio Commerce Department. Both agencies are involved in setting up the new program to permit sale of medical marijuana to qualifying patients by September 2018.
The Trump administration, in an unprecedented decision, has rejected the recommendation of a commission that has long overseen fishing issues along the East Coast, raising deep concerns about political meddling in the ongoing preservation of fragile stocks from Maine to Florida. More specifically, the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stirred worries about the consequences for summer flounder, one of the most fished species in the Northeast. The decline of summer flounder could have a wider impact across the region’s marine ecosystem. Ross earlier this month dismissed the findings of the 75-year-old Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which concluded that New Jersey was violating a conservation plan for summer flounder that all the other states in the compact approved. Many conservationists thought that New Jersey, while following protocols, was bowing to the fishing industry.The decision, which effectively allows New Jersey to harvest more summer flounder, marked the first time the federal government had disregarded such a recommendation by the commission, and it drew a swift rebuke from state officials along the East Coast. “The commission is deeply concerned about the near-term impact on our ability to end overfishing on the summer flounder stock as well as the longer-term ability for the commission to effectively conserve numerous other Atlantic coastal shared resources,” Douglas Grout, the commission’s chair, said in a statement.Millions of pounds of summer flounder, also known as fluke, are caught every year by commercial and recreational fishermen between Virginia Beach and Cape Cod. But the commission — an interstate pact established by Congress to manage migratory fisheries — has determined that fluke are being overfished, with an estimated population that is 42 percent below the level regulators consider to be sustainable. The commission has reduced catch limits significantly since state and federal surveys found the fluke population had plummeted by nearly one-quarter since its 2010 peak. But if the population falls another 14 percent, reaching a critical threshold for the ability of the fishery to rebuild, commissioners will be required by their rules to reduce quotas drastically or implement a region-wide moratorium on catching fluke.
Visit any dog park in urban Canada these days and you’re bound to encounter at least one or two: rescue dogs adopted from an exotic foreign or domestic locale.It’s estimated, in fact, that tens of thousands of winsome canine refugees enter the country every year — while many others are shipped vast distances inside Canada.But the growing, humanitarian-motivated trend is inadvertently creating a major public-health headache, fuelling a rebound in the deadly rabies problem and importing other nasty diseases, public health officials warn.A federal-government journal has just documented three recent cases of stray puppies being taken from Nunavut or northern Quebec — where the deadly disease is endemic among Arctic foxes — to new homes in southern Canada, only for the owners to discover they had acquired rabid animals. Meanwhile, as dogs stream in from the Caribbean, Latin America, east Asia and the Middle East, Canada’s pet-import rules are among the loosest in the world, vets say. “There are thousands upon thousands of dogs that come into Canada every year, and it’s a completely unregulated process,” said Scott Weese, Canada research chair in zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases at the Ontario Veterinary College. “Animals aren’t supposed make it into the country if they’re sick, but we see it all the time.”