Rural America needs a new deal, or at least a better deal, and if it’s green all the better. Farm loan delinquencies are rising to levels not seen since the Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980s, from which the rural Midwest never really recovered. Nearly a third of Iowa farmers growing corn and soybeans caught up in a trade war with China are said to be under extreme stress, according to Iowa State University. They’re the younger ones.Rural communities are draining young people. Two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties are losing population and prospects as manufacturing jobs leach out of the Midwest. The Information Age jobs are not in those county seat towns of 5,000 people — they’re in Minneapolis or Des Moines.Meanwhile, we’re losing our precious topsoil and polluting our rivers — killing the Gulf of Mexico in the process — as we chase ever-higher corn yields in a vain bid to cut a profit on thin commodity markets. Iowa is losing soil four to five times faster than it can be regrown — already yields and crop quality are declining because of it, which ultimately leads to higher food prices with less nutrition.The Midwest would welcome a new deal, and this is where it must start.
Rural America’s slow recovery from the Great Recession isn’t entirely bad news, says the founder of the Rural Opportunity Initiative. For smart public and private investors, it could provide a chance to get ahead of the pack. Rural companies and entrepreneurs in the U.S. share many similarities and common challenges with those in the developing world, McKenna says, a fact that made Georgetown, with its global economic development focus, a natural home for the initiative. One of those common challenges? That decades after the Great Recession, rural places continue to struggle to invigorate their economies. But the slow pace of rural recovery could actually be a positive marker of potential for investors, McKenna said.
On Monday, the North Charleston Planning Commission will consider a rezoning request that would allow as many as 1,000 residences to be built in a dense community in the middle of an entirely rural area next to the Ashley River Historic District. Unfortunately, the alternative would be even worse.The rezoning request would affect a 4,000-acre tract west of S.C. Highway 61 in Dorchester County known as Watson Hill that was annexed into North Charleston years ago to avoid more restrictive zoning under the county.The property is part of the East Edisto Conservancy, which limits development to one unit per four acres, hence the 1,000 homes.But rather than sprawling a new neighborhood of hundreds of homes across the entire rural tract, the Coastal Conservation League and the National Historic Trust worked with the property owners to come up with a plan for a dense, mixed-use community that would leave the vast majority of the land untouched.The proposed site for this entirely new and necessarily self-contained community is surrounded by forests, swamps and wetlands. There are no roads, no sewer lines, no fire or police service, schools, grocery stores or any other kind of infrastructure or amenities.It’s 18 miles to downtown Charleston via the nearest existing routes, 11 miles to downtown Summerville, and 10 miles around the Ashley River to the rest of North Charleston.Allowing any kind of development in the area would almost certainly put an incredible burden on North Charleston taxpayers, who would be on the hook for new services and infrastructure. And the location of the new community suggests it would put pressure on much of the rest of the region as well.
During the last six years of her short life, Emma Franchek spent at least half her days in one type of treatment or another, seeking care for addiction and mental illness. Psych wards, detoxes, rehabs, sober houses — none gave Emma lasting help. But she kept trying, until her 4-foot-11 frame, a dancer’s delicate body, was found in a squalid restaurant bathroom in Boston. She had fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and sedatives in her blood. Emma was 24.Now, as he looks back at her experiences, Jim sometimes wonders whether the disease really was too powerful — or the help provided too weak. Contemplating what might have saved her, he says, the phrase “if only” often comes to mind.
A new federal program will allow nonprofit organizations to purchase homes in rural communities for use as transitional housing for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder. The initiative is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and aims to address the national opioid crisis by providing greater access and support to rural areas, which have shouldered a substantial portion of the epidemic's overdose and death tolls.
I feel conflicted about my role here. Rural places like this one are facing countless questions about the economy, about identity and about the environment. It’s hard to know what we need to be stewards of and sustain, and what we need to let go or confront, to build a strong future. I am what you might call a “homecomer.” Over the last eight years, I have found that my homecoming story is not unique. In Minnesota, demographers noticed several years ago a modest but persistent trend of people in their 30s and 40s taking up residence in small communities, a counterweight to the high school graduates moving away. The Pew Research Center found that, nationwide, while rural areas are home to a much smaller part of the American population than they once were, about half of rural counties, especially the ones that are not economically dependent on farming, are gaining people.And that growth reflects patterns we should examine more closely: an influx of international immigrants, and people moving in from cities. Simply panicking about the “death” of rural America gives those of us who care about and live in these places very little to learn or build on. Is there another way to think about it?
The number of kids enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — two government health plans for the poor — fell by nearly 600,000 in the first 11 months of 2018, a precipitous drop that has puzzled and alarmed many health policy analysts, while several states say it reflects the good news of an improving economy. Enrollment in the two programs decreased by 599,000 children in the 48 states from which the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has data from December 2017 to November 2018, the last month for which numbers are available. At the beginning of that period, Medicaid and CHIP enrolled nearly 36 million children in those states.Missouri (8.1 percent), Idaho (6.7 percent) and Utah (6 percent) experienced the biggest percentage drops in kids enrolled.
Another federal deadline passed Monday for seven states in the U.S. West to wrap up work on a plan to ensure the drought-stricken Colorado River can deliver water to the 40 million people and farms that depend on it. The states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — have been working for years on drought contingency plans. But Arizona and California have missed two deadlines set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and still have work to do.Without a consensus among the states, the agency will allow governors from the seven states to weigh in with recommendations on what to do next. The federal government also could step in and impose its own rules in the river's lower basin, affecting California, Arizona and Nevada.
The proposed funding cut from Alaska’s education budget this year, I feel, is a bad idea! As an Alaska resident who has supported the education of our children in our communities, I am speaking up in opposition to this.I am a resident and tribal member of Kwigillingok, I also work at our local school. I am a mother and grandmother, as I raised four children and a grandson who graduated from our school and now have five grandchildren attending school.I have seen the school grow from the first day it opened back in 1976. Back then, it was one classroom with limited educational material. By 1980, a new school was constructed and just recently, our school was again renovated to add more classrooms and a full-size gym, up from a half-court gym.My education history started in Kwigillingok in the old Bureau of Indian Affair days. Everything was taught in English, and I did not comprehend whatever was taught from my earliest entry to school until later in the school years. I am lucky I was never whipped for speaking my language back in the day, although I heard some stories that our elders were.
U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that's rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers. Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was expected to announce the proposal during a Wednesday speech before a wildlife conference in Denver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said.The decision to lift protections is based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. He said further details would be made public during a formal announcement planned in coming days.