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Rural News

School mergers seen as barrier in rural economy

Time Argus | Posted on November 21, 2017

According to the nearly three dozen witnesses who testified at a Nov. 7 hearing of the state’s Rural Development Caucus, Vermont’s small towns are losing population, have unreliable internet, fewer job opportunities, higher transportation costs and a smaller tax base that makes paying for essential services difficult. Despite these challenges, they said, Vermont’s small towns offer an unmatched quality of life and are ready to make the investments needed to welcome new business and create new jobs.The hearing, organized with support from House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Vermont Council on Rural Development, was held to help lawmakers determine what Vermonters think are the most significant factors impacting Vermont’s rural economy.“The economies and economic development challenges of rural areas are different from those of more densely populated parts of the state,” said Rep. Chip Conquest, of Newbury, cochairman of the caucus. Co-chairwoman Rep. Laura Sibilia, of Dover, agreed. “While we have our own experience and ideas, we know there is knowledge and insight along the back roads that will help us improve legislation and enact better policies,” she said.Act 46, a state law whose purpose is for school districts to work toward mergers with neighboring districts, and could result in the closure of some schools, dominated much of the two-plus-hour discussion.

MI Soybean Farmers Partner with Midland County to Promote Better Rural Bridge Evaluation and Management | Posted on November 16, 2017

 Michigan farmers depend upon rural bridges to efficiently deliver their commodities to the local elevator or processing facility. The structural integrity of this infrastructure is essential to farmer profitability. Unfortunately, an increasing number of rural bridges in the state are load limited, requiring vehicles transporting agricultural commodities to detour - often at significant distances. This results in additional costs being inserted in the nation's food delivery system and diminished profitability for Michigan farmers. In an effort to promote better evaluation and management of the state's rural bridges, the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee and the Soy Transportation Coalition have partnered with the Midland County Road Commission in central Michigan on an innovative project designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of load testing technology when assessing the condition of rural bridges. The partnership employs the use of load testing sensors attached to the underside of the bridge. After the sensors are installed, test loads are driven over the various segments of the bridge surface to determine a precise understanding of the capabilities of the bridge. 

Community Health Workers’ Role in Health Care Delivery

Rural Pennsylvania | Posted on November 16, 2017

With current shortages of health care professionals in rural Pennsylvania, community health workers have the potential to play a significant role in the delivery of rural health services, according to research out of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Currently, there is no single definition of a community health worker (CHW). However, the research used the definition from the Human Resources and Services Administration’s Community Health Workers National Workforce Study, which defines CHWs as lay members of communities who work or volunteer with local physical health and/or mental health care systems and usually share ethnicity, language, socio-economic status, and life experience with the community members they serve. According to the CHW survey, 91 percent of CHWs are female, with an average age of about 48. CHWs have worked or volunteered in the field for 9 years, on average, with 76 percent of the respondents being paid workers. The educational background of CHWs varied, and ranged from a high school education to a college degree.Twenty percent of CHWs earn between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. It was evident from the focus groups and leadership phone interviews that low pay, high turnover, and lack of adequate funding were significant issues for many agencies.According to the CHW survey, 89 percent of respondents received some type of training to be a CHW. It was evident from the leadership interviews and focus groups that there was a variety of training opportunities being offered to CHWs, depending on the work setting and whether they were volunteer or paid workers. On-the-job training, conference training, certificate programs, shadowing, and formal education were the predominant types of training.

Pharmaceutical, personal care pollution impacts aquatic life

Science Daily | Posted on November 16, 2017

Traditional toxicity testing underestimates the risk that pharmaceutical and personal care product pollution poses to freshwater ecosystems. Criteria that account for ecological disruption -- not just organism death -- are needed to protect surface waters, which are under pressure from a growing population and escalating synthetic chemical use.

Citizen investment drives rural Kansas

Hays Post | Posted on November 16, 2017

Without question, the most important resource in Phillipsburg, Dodge City, Pittsburg, Salina or any community in Kansas, is human resources. If you look up the definition of human resources, you will find it as: “the individuals who make up the community and their learned skills that create the ability to lead teams of people, manage systems and produce goods and services.” Rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers, ranchers and small community businesses work together for the common good. The single greatest roadblock for success and growth in any community is lack of organized leadership with vision. Fortunately, Kansans have been an active bunch. Citizens of this state have always believed they can get the job done.

Rural areas at risk as water levels drop in massive aquifer

ABC News | Posted on November 16, 2017

The draining of a massive aquifer that underlies portions of eight states in the central U.S. is drying up streams, causing fish to disappear and threatening the livelihood of farmers who rely on it for their crops. Water levels in the Ogallala aquifer have been dropping for decades as irrigators pump water faster than rainfall can recharge it.An analysis of federal data found the Ogallala aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60, The Denver Post reports.The drawdown has become so severe that streams are drying at a rate of 6 miles per year and some highly resilient fish are disappearing. In rural areas, farmers and ranchers worry they will no longer have enough water for their livestock and crops as the aquifer is depleted.The aquifer lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a June report.

Losing our local fabric, one thread at a time

The Cap Times | Posted on November 15, 2017

But everything changes, and that will, too. Wisconsin-based Book World, which somehow managed to be the fourth-largest book chain in the U.S., will soon vacate storefronts across the Midwest. The company cited the loss of sales to online competitors. So small communities like Rice Lake, Sturgeon Bay, Shawano and 17 others in Wisconsin will lose one more thread of local fabric. A few may have a local bookstore tended by dedicated owners. Most will go without, and their communities will be the less for it. Hopefully a new model will emerge in these towns. Until then, those who love books will probably get them from the online behemoth that will go unnamed. Pining for local storefronts, local banks, local grocers and the like can easily devolve into nostalgic whining, but we do lose part of who we are as these institutions fail, or when we fail them.As the holidays approach, generations of Wisconsinites will recall piling into the family car for the Thanksgiving-night unveiling of the H.C. Prange Christmas windows in their communities. Those nights are long gone, but the memories linger. Book World the chain isn’t local, but its stores sure are. They have whole sections of books by local and regional authors. Here, a best-seller has been “The Animal Keepers: The Story of an Unlikely Hero and an Unforgettable Season.” It is a touching tale written by Donn Behnke, the cross-country coach at Stevens Point Area Senior High, in which he tells of a special championship season and how the team and community rallied around one special member of that team. Written a couple of years ago, it must still sell briskly, as evidenced by the prominent place it holds on the local and regional shelves at Book World. You can buy the book online, but the question is, “Why?” It’s a local book about local folks, and you can get it at a local bookstore.

New App Maps Overdose Epidemic in Real Time

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on November 15, 2017

In the summer of 2016, drug overdose deaths in Baltimore were exploding and health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials the city needed real-time data to better manage its public health response.  Four months later, the DEA’s Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) team had developed a smart phone application that could be used by first responders to record the time and location of overdoses and transmit the information to a regional mapping database.   Today, that tool, known as ODMAP, is used by more than 250 law enforcement, first responder and public health agencies in 27 states. 

Pennsylvania Reconvenes Rural Development Council

Lancaster Farming | Posted on November 15, 2017

On Monday, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presided over the first meeting of the reconstituted Rural Development Council on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor is re-establishing the council to give rural Pennsylvanians a louder voice in state government and to better coordinate state programs for rural communities.“Pennsylvania has nearly 3.4 million Pennsylvanians living in rural areas, spread throughout 66 of our 67 counties,” said Redding, who will chair the council.“This council will help ensure rural Pennsylvania voices are heard as we work together across sectors to solve problems and develop strategies designed to grow our rural communities and ensure they are vibrant places to call home,” he said.The council consists of leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors across the state.

Rural Housing Challenges Through the Lens of Two New England Communities

University of New Hampshire, Carsey School | Posted on November 15, 2017

In this brief, we use interview and focus group data to describe some of the ways that restricted rural housing stock affects working families in two rural New England counties, and explore solutions proposed by rural residents and experts to make housing affordable (see Box 1 on page 2). Rural amenities and scenery make residence in certain New England regions desirable for second-home owners, vacationers, and retirees. However, the use of housing for these purposes, combined with efforts to conserve acreage and preserve scenery, serves to diminish the supply of housing, making it unaffordable for many low- and moderate-income residents. Moreover, the housing that is available varies in quality, and regional nonprofit and federal housing assistance programs lack the capacity to meet all residents’ needs.