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Rural News

Prosperity takes a detour in La. countryside

Baton Rouge Advocate | Posted on December 24, 2018

"While the economy is strong overall, we recognize that some communities have yet to feel the full benefits of the ongoing expansion," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said. "We are conducting research, collaborating with communities and assessing financial regulations so that our nation's current prosperity will benefit small towns and cities alike." In some Louisiana parishes, as in the nation’s counties in rural areas, a lack of opportunity and infrastructure like good roads and broadband internet access is hobbling growth.Powell said unemployment in the poorest rural counties is more than double the national average last year. This while those employed or looking for jobs in their prime working years in rural areas have increasingly lagged during the current expansion.The Census Bureau recently reported that there are low percentages of penetration of broadband internet in many rural areas, but particularly those in the Mississippi River basin — as in Louisiana’s Mississippi and Red River delta parishes. Some parishes in the greater Baton Rouge area, the southern end of the Mississippi Delta, are home to some of the poorest communities in the country.Ultimately, healthy cities have served as engines of prosperity — and thus magnets for talented young people. But if, as Powell says, the benefits of economic growth are to be more evenly shared, rural development must be part of the national agenda, and nowhere is that more apparent in Louisiana.

Farm bill includes King bill to bring fast internet to farms

WABI | Posted on December 21, 2018

A bill co-sponsored by Maine's independent senator that promises to help bring high-speed internet to farms has passed Congress as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Sen. Angus King in May co-sponsored the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which he says is designed to promote precision agriculture and deployment of rural broadband. The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission to start a task force to find gaps in high-speed internet connectivity in agricultural areas.Congress sent the 2018 Farm Bill to Republican President Trump last week.Amanda Beal of Maine Farmland Trust previously said greater connectivity would improve access to markets for farmers in Maine and beyond.The proposal cites a goal of reaching 95 percent of agricultural land with fixed and mobile high-speed broadband by 2025.

Wetlands, lakes would lose protections under Michigan bill

Washington Post | Posted on December 21, 2018

Michigan legislators were poised Tuesday to remove legal protections from many of the state’s wetlands and other inland waterways, which provide wildlife habitat and perform vital tasks such as preventing floods. A bill approved by a House committee would eliminate a requirement to obtain state permits before dredging, filling or otherwise degrading many waterways.A floor vote was expected Wednesday. If approved, the measure would be returned to the Senate, which previously approved it, for consideration of minor changes made by the House.At least 550,000 acres of wetlands would be vulnerable under the proposal, according to an analysis by the state Department of Environmental Quality. Also losing protection would be 4,200 of Michigan’s 11,000 lakes.Those totals could jump significantly because the measure also would tie Michigan’s definition of regulated waters to federal policy, which President Donald Trump’s administration this month proposed weakening. Up to 3 million acres of wetlands — nearly half of the state’s total — no longer would be shielded if the proposed Trump regulation takes effect, along with 21,600 of Michigan’s 36,000 miles of streams, the DEQ said.

Rural housing group warns of looming crisis for renters

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 20, 2018

The nation is not keeping pace with repairing and replacing more than 400,000 affordable rental units that serve low-income rural residents. Without action, a cascade of rentals will age out of the program, creating a housing gap that could contribute to rural population loss, according to the Housing Assistance Council. Rural America faces an affordable-housing crisis that, if left unchecked, could raise rents for low-income residents and contribute to rural population loss in coming years, a national nonprofit organization says.

How opioids become a problem

DTN | Posted on December 19, 2018

They were found dead in front yards and in cars on the streets of rural Jackson County, West Virginia. Between 2006 and 2008, 16 people -- age 26 and younger -- overdosed on prescription painkillers.The county of 29,000 people north of Charleston saw a side of itself many people didn't know existed.Most of the victims had access to leftover prescription painkillers from family or friends."That exposed a problem we wouldn't have had discussions about," said Amy Haskins, project director of the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition, public health educator and sanitarian at the Jackson County Health Department."Most of the kids were from the same graduating class."For the first time, after those tragic deaths, the county started an education program on prescription drug abuse.Addiction has become a problem, coinciding with a huge expansion in the number of opioid prescriptions in the past 20 years.

The hard truths of trying to 'save' the rural economy

The New York Times | Posted on December 18, 2018

There are 60 million people, almost one in five Americans, living on farms, in hamlets and in small towns across the landscape. For the last quarter century the story of these places has been one of relentless economic decline. This is, of course, not news to the people who live in rural and small-town America, who have been fighting for years to reverse this decline. But now, the nation’s political class is finally noticing. The election of Donald Trump, powered in no small degree by rural voters, has brought the troubles of small-town America to national attention, with an urgent question: What can be done to revive it?Rural America is getting old. The median age is 43, seven years older than city dwellers. Its productivity, defined as output per worker, is lower than urban America’s. Its families have lower incomes. And its share of the population is shrinking: the United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena.These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer.

Pandora's pill bottle: Opioids in rural America

DTN | Posted on December 18, 2018

Pandora's box was a large jar given to Pandora that contained all of the world's evils. She unleashed it all when she opened the jar. Only hope was left inside the jar.Communities across the country are looking for hopeful approaches to combat what has spilled out of pill bottles: The scourge of opioid addiction that has become the modern-day Pandora's box.Putting the problem back in the jar -- or bottle -- may be impossible.Victims of opioid addiction often appear faceless and nameless in a national tragedy that buries families in stigma.The victims can be any family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker, of any generation, in urban as well as rural America, lost to a crisis still on the rise nationally.DTN is launching this special series for a closer look at the impact of opioid addiction on rural America, how it became such a big problem, and what is being done about opioids.Ultimately, is there still hope left inside Pandora's pill bottle?Rural America is a key battlefront where the crisis is growing. At the same time, the agriculture-based economy continues to struggle and lacks the resources to support needed healthcare infrastructure improvements and growth. Agriculture-based rural America is the center of a perfect opioid storm -- the risk of injury and need for pain relief may be greater while working on farms than in any other occupation."In rural areas, people are more likely engaged in occupations prone to injury," Kolodny said.He said doctors across the country have become increasingly likely to prescribe opioids rather than non-addictive alternatives to patients.

Arizona’s wild horse paradox

High Country News | Posted on December 18, 2018

The horses stood chest-deep in the river, pulling up long strands of eelgrass with their teeth. There must have been 20 of them, in colors ranging from nearly white to ruddy brown. The babies stood wobbly in the current. My partner and I floated quietly past in our kayak, trying not to spook them. But it was a sweltering Friday in July, and we were followed by hollering college students in rented innertubes. Beer coolers floated along behind them, and music reverberated off the canyon walls. Uninterested and used to the party, the horses barely looked up. A stone’s throw from metropolitan Phoenix, the Salt River runs through the Tonto National Forest, where deer, bighorn sheep and bald eagles live amid cactus and mesquite bosques. But the most famous and controversial inhabitants are the area’s “wild” horses. Once slated for removal by the U.S. Forest Service for reasons of public safety, today these horses are protected by state law. Now, in the first arrangement of its kind, a state government is working with a nonprofit to manage horses on federal land. Now long-feuding entities must work together to find a way to balance the horses — and the mythology of the American West they represent — with river and land conservation and public safety.  In 2016 Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, introduced the Salt River Horse Act, which was signed into law that May. The law provides state protection for the horses, making it illegal to harass or harm them. But while the law specifies that the horses in question are not strays, it does not define them as wild — a classification issue with consequences beyond semantics.

First-ever proof of wolves catching and eating freshwater fish

Mercury News | Posted on December 18, 2018

In a revelation of wolf behavior from Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park, researchers announced they have confirmed park wolves hunting for and eating fish out of streams as a regular part of their diet. The researchers released the first-ever video of wolves eating freshwater fish, and said GPS data shows one pack spent about half its time during several weeks in April and May “hunting” in creeks for  suckers and northern pike.

Austin brazenly annexes rural townships

Post Bulletin | Posted on November 22, 2018

As rural residents we are very concerned with the recent actions of the city of Austin.For decades, Lansing Township has been steadily annexed into the city of Austin bit by bit. More than 2,000 acres to date, despite the city experiencing a steady loss of businesses and population over those same years.Our township is a farming community; we have spent many years and resources maintaining these attributes. We need farms to stay farms. Austin has on at least two separate occasions in recent years annexed parcels of Austin Township and Lansing Township farmland under the pretense of some development interest; only to later discover no development is forthcoming.Now, once again and despite twice being denied by the township supervisors the city officials are at it again. In a brazen attempt to subvert the political will of the rural area they are proceeding, with hostility to the residents, to annex raw farmland into the city without consent.This has many ramifications for Lansing Township and impacts surrounding farms negatively, as the potential for conflict rises with each incursion into the countryside. Austin has seen business contraction and a steady loss of residential structures, creating vast amounts of empty commercial space and dozens of empty lots in the city. Prior annexations have proven to be excessively costly for property owners.