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Rural News

How To Make Broadcast Towers More Bird-Friendly: Turn Off Some Lights

NPR | Posted on January 31, 2017

"We were able to reduce the numbers of bird fatalities on communications towers by simply extinguishing those nonflashing lights," she says. "Those fatalities were reduced by as much as 70 percent."  Exactly why isn't yet clear, but she has a theory.  "Some research has documented that when birds are exposed to long wavelengths of light such as red or white that it actually interferes with their ability to use magnetic fields for navigation," Gehring says.  She says that's especially true on cloudy nights when birds can't navigate by the stars. The towers' steady red lights seem to confuse them. Flashing red lights don't.  In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration changed regulations on new towers, requiring that they all be built with only flashing lights.  Gehring, who now works for the Federal Communications Commission, spends much of her time contacting people who run towers built before 2015 and encouraging them to switch to blinking lights.

Community Banks On The Decline Since 1980s

Ag Web | Posted on January 31, 2017

Community banks across America are disappearing at astonishing rates due to pressure from the rising costs of doing business. In an AgDay exclusive, stockholder-owned lending company Farmer Mac is releasing the results of its study on the health of the farm economy. The lender says more than 10,000 community banks have ceased to exist since 1984, largely due to failure, mergers and acquisitions. Farmer Mac economists are quick to point out that many of these banks were smaller with a limited number of employees and were gobbled up by larger banks. The benefit of community banks, in rural communities, are their emphasis on what they call “relationship banking,” which is important in supporting small businesses, like farmers. However, rising costs like increased regulations and compliance, as well as greater capital requirements are constraining these smaller banks to the point of forcing some out.

Federal Court Orders Wisconsin Legislature To Redraw District Lines

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on January 31, 2017

A federal court has ordered Wisconsin lawmakers to redraw the state’s legislative district lines by Nov. 1, saying the current lines are unconstitutional and should be replaced in time for the November 2018 election. "Under the prevailing view in this court, the people of Wisconsin already have endured several elections under an unconstitutional reapportionment scheme," wrote Judges Kenneth Ripple, Barbara Crabb and William Griesbach in an eight-page court order. "If they are to be spared another such event, a new map must be drawn in time for the preparatory steps leading up to the election."

Restoring rural America: community building in the modern era

Farm and Dairy | Posted on January 31, 2017

Small business drives the rural economy. Rural areas that don’t have the infrastructure and population to draw in big business, support thriving small businesses. Over the last 30 years small businesses created over eight million new jobs. Fifty-five percent of all U.S. jobs are with small businesses. In Ohio, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry has an 87 percent small business employment share. Mom’s diner and Pop’s bait shop create a sense of place for community members. Each time we visit my dad’s hometown he points to an old diner that served the best turkey gravy commercial sandwiches back in his day. Many of our sweetest memories are memories made in mom n’ pop shops. When you are tempted to pass by small businesses because they have higher prices, are out of the way or an extra stop, remember that the economic future of your hometown depends on your support. Money spent on Main Street is always money well spent.

Tennessee rural development depends on broadband plan

The Tennessean | Posted on January 30, 2017

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has been working to ensure that Tennessee is the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs and succeeding.  In the past two years, TNECD has received nearly 50,000 job commitments from expanding or relocating businesses that have committed nearly $11 billion capital investment in our state. Tennessee has also been recognized as first in the nation for advance industry job growth, first in foreign direct investment job creation, and second in the household median income growth.  But there’s a critical piece to continuing this momentum — broadband. Broadband, high speed internet, is critical not just for economic development but also for education, health care, agriculture and quality of life. Too many Tennesseans (around 800,000 people including 34 percent of all rural areas) are living without the connectivity they need for growing businesses and thriving communities, and our neighboring states and others across the country continue to launch new broadband initiatives.  Governor Haslam has rolled out his plan to increase broadband access through targeted investment, deregulation and education.  The main barrier to the availability of broadband is the high cost of getting it to areas with low population density. That’s why Governor Haslam’s plan includes a targeted investment of $45 million over three years to provide grants and tax credits to offset the capital costs in the hardest to reach areas. Ten million dollars in grants will be available each year to provide broadband for unserved areas. In addition, business tax credits of $5 million will be available to providers that deploy broadband in target areas.

Holes in Rural Insurance

DTN | Posted on January 30, 2017

During year-end meetings with farm clients, Minneapolis-based consultant Rod Mauszycki, heard farmers pose a question the veteran tax adviser had never heard before, "What's the penalty for not carrying health insurance next year?" "Many farm families are getting charged $20,000, $30,000, or even close to $40,000 in premiums and out-of-pocket costs before their insurance kicks in," said Mauszycki, a principal with Clifton Larson Allen LLP's agribusiness and cooperative group. "The federal penalty of $1,000 to $2,000 is relatively minor. If they don't get sick, they just saved $20,000 to $40,000." "Now is a difficult financial time for U.S. agriculture when farmers are breaking even at best," he added. "Banks are pressuring them to cut expenses or pay down debt, so some farmers are deciding to put their business needs before their personal needs." No matter that Congress is debating the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a political exercise that could take months or even years to clarify details. Major insurance companies are abandoning individual policy coverage that has been the gold standard for self-employed business owners and farmers nationwide. Many American farm families now face an immediate health care crisis: Their net farm incomes have plummeted in the most severe farm recession since the 1980s, just as the cost of private insurance is soaring.

Rural Georgia’s struggles getting lawmakers’ attention

The Telegraph | Posted on January 30, 2017

Lawmakers are talking about the problems that plague some of Georgia’s smaller communities. Main Street businesses that have closed. Financially struggling hospitals. Poor internet connections. Schools that don’t offer all the classes that will help students get into the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. Young people moving to cities and never coming back.  Now there’s a move afoot in the state House to try and look at all these things comprehensively. So far it doesn’t have a formal name, but House Speaker David Ralston,  is calling it the rural development initiative.  It could take the form of a study group or a working group or a commission, Ralston’s spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, said. But the speaker wants to put a focus on creating the right environment in rural Georgia for private industry to create jobs.

NASA, NOAA Concur 2016 Was World’s Warmest Year on Record

Growing Produce | Posted on January 27, 2017

It it felt like this past year was hotter than usual, you were not imagining things. According to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Planet Earth’s surface temperatures during 2016 were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880.  This finding makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures and continues what has been a long-term warming trend. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78°F warmer than the mid-20th century mean.

Obamacare repeal would hit rural America the hardest

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 27, 2017

The health of rural America is failing, and a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without adequate replacement could prove disastrous. A December 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that for the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the United States has declined, particularly in small cities and rural areas, where people are dying at much higher rates. This shocking trend is driven in part by increasing mortality rates for white, working-class Americans, many of whom live in rural America. There is no better indicator of well-being than life expectancy, and reversals like this are unusual for wealthy nations where successive generations increase in longevity. This has remained true for vulnerable, minority populations in America, as blacks and Hispanics continue to make gains in life expectancy even while experiencing significant health disparities.This drop in life expectancy in rural areas is linked to higher rates of chronic illness, obesity, drug overdose, alcoholism, mental illness and suicide. Death rates are most notable for rural white women, who are now much more likely than their grandmothers to suffer from obesity, smoking and alcoholism. Rising rates of opioid addiction have resulted in an increase in drug dependency in newborns born to rural mothers. Further, dwindling industry in these communities limits access to both employment and to health care.Taken as a whole, Medicaid expansion through the ACA has resulted in critical gains toward improving rural population health by expanding insurance coverage and stabilizing rural hospitals.

Bills in VA and MO would double down on banning municipal broadband

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 27, 2017

Telecom and cable industries are doubling back to make already existing state restrictions tougher, reducing the ability of local governments to create competition for telecommunications services. This time incumbents (the telecommunications companies or successors that were in place before telecommunications deregulation) are giving their bills pro-community broadband titles (Virginia Broadband Deployment Act) and paragraphs of complimentary rhetoric that lead to innocuous sounding directives that are actually quite harmful for municipal broadband advocates.