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Rural News

Senators press agriculture rural development assistant on funding, FCC relationship

The Fence Post | Posted on October 2, 2017

Anne Hazlett, assistant to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on rural development, came under pressure Sept. 28 from several senators on whether she will push for money for programs President Donald Trump proposed eliminating and on whether the USDA will formally weigh in with the Federal Communications Commission on fixed versus wireless broadband internet access. The interactions occurred at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on rural development and energy programs in the next farm bill.Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said rural development is one of the reasons he stayed on the agriculture committee, and said it is vital to find "new resources" for the community facilities program to combat the opioid drug addiction crisis.Leahy then asked Hazlett, "Are you going to push for providing them?"But Hazlett responded only that, "you have my commitment to steward the resources that are provided."

Farm mega-homes are on the rise, and their owners may be benefitting from huge tax breaks

Business Insider | Posted on September 28, 2017

North America is seeing an increasing number of "farm mega-homes," large estates built on agricultural land. Even if mansion owners are not farming on a large scale, some have the ability to receive hefty tax exemptions, a loophole that city councils are trying to regulate.The loss of agricultural land to housing development could have consequences in the future. Farmland in North America is not only facing threats from increasingly temperatures and prolonged droughts — but also from the rise of mansions. 

How to Win a War on Drugs

The New York Times | Posted on September 28, 2017

Decades ago, the United States and Portugal both struggled with illicit drugs and took decisive action — in diametrically opposite directions. The U.S. cracked down vigorously, spending billions of dollars incarcerating drug users. In contrast, Portugal undertook a monumental experiment: It decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Ever since in Portugal, drug addiction has been treated more as a medical challenge than as a criminal justice issue. After more than 15 years, it’s clear which approach worked better. The United States drug policy failed spectacularly, with about as many Americans dying last year of overdoses — around 64,000 — as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined. In contrast, Portugal may be winning the war on drugs — by ending it. Today, the Health Ministry estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.

‘No more agriculture in Puerto Rico,’ a farmer laments

The Seattle Times | Posted on September 27, 2017

Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry. Entire plantations, dairy barns and industrial chicken coops are gone. Hurricane Maria made landfall here Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Its force and fury stripped every tree of not just the leaves, but also the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought. Rows and rows of fields were denuded. Plants simply blew away.In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture.Across the island, Maria’s prolonged barrage took out entire plantations and destroyed dairy barns and industrial chicken coops. Plantain, banana and coffee crops were the hardest hit, Flores said. Landslides in the mountainous interior of the island took out many roads, a major part of the agriculture infrastructure there.

More than half of rural counties don't have a hospital where women can give birth

Sentinel Source | Posted on September 21, 2017

A new study in the journal Health Affairs quantifies the trend. In 2004, 45 percent of rural counties lacked a hospital with obstetrics services. About one in 10 rural counties lost those services over the next decade, and by 2014, 54 percent of communities lacked those services. That leaves 2.4 million women of child-bearing age living in counties without hospitals that deliver babies.There are already a slew of well-known health disparities between rural women and those who live in urban settings. Women from rural areas are more likely to report having fair or poor health, be obese, smoke cigarettes, commit suicide and have cervical cancer than their urban counterparts. But the recent trend could exacerbate disparities in reproductive health, too. One recent study found that rural areas had made far fewer gains in improving infant mortality compared with the rest of the country.“A lot of discussion has been focusing on the closures of rural hospitals entirely,” said Peiyin Hung, a postdoctoral associate at Yale School of Public Health, who led the study. “We found that even among surviving hospitals in rural communities, a lot of obstetric services in these ares are disappearing.”What troubled Hung was that the most geographically isolated communities were more likely not to have had obstetrics services to begin with — and were more likely to lose them over the decade they studied. There were also patterns of inequality: rural counties that had lower median incomes and higher percentages of African American women of reproductive age were also more likely to not have hospitals with maternity wards.

18 diseases feral swine could carry

Watt Ag Net | Posted on September 21, 2017

I picked up two brochures and read through them. One of those showed all of the diseases that feral swine could carry. There were three categories of diseases listed: bacterial diseases, viral diseases, and parasitic diseases. All of the listed diseases can be transmitted to domestic swine, and many of those are transmittable to humans.

Here’s how Cassidy-Graham bill would devastate rural America

Think Progress | Posted on September 21, 2017

Graham-Cassidy will increase the number of uninsured people. Those people will continue to rely on hospitals, which will, in turn, rely on DSH funds to cover the costs of the medical care. For rural America, the impact of this policy would be especially devastating. If Graham-Cassidy passes, and the MDH and LVHA programs aren’t renewed on top of that, low-income residents depending on rural hospitals as their only means to get proper health care will doubly suffer.As Congress continues to debate the last-ditch Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the deadline to permanently renew funding for rural hospitals faced with high costs and limited resources may go unnoticed. Hundreds of qualifying rural hospitals rely on payments provided by the Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) and the Low Volume Hospital Adjustment (LVHA) programs, both of which expire on September 30. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Rural Hospital Access Act in April, which would make the programs permanent, but the bill has not yet moved through committee. Instead, Republican lawmakers are focusing their efforts on a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The measure, which has yet to receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would lead to a loss of health coverage for approximately 32 million peopleand would give states the right to remove protections against insurance companies that charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. The proposal will have a big impact on how millions of Americans receive their health insurance — and how many will be dependent on rural hospitals for their primary means of health care.

NOAA Issues La Nina Watch

DTN | Posted on September 21, 2017

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says that the Pacific Ocean equator temperatures have at least a 50% chance of cooling to La Nina values by December. Accordingly, the CPC issued a La Nina watch Sept. 14. In issuing the watch, CPC details noted an emphasis on subsurface cooling in the equator region waters of the Pacific.

US West's wildfires spark calls to thin tree-choked forests

ABC News | Posted on September 14, 2017

Wildfires that are blackening the American West in one of the nation's worst fire seasons have ignited calls, including from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to thin forests that have become so choked with trees that they are at "powder keg levels." The destruction has exposed old frictions between environmentalists and those who want to see logging accelerated, and it's triggered a push to reassess how lands should be managed to prevent severe wildfires.Zinke's directive Tuesday for department managers and superintendents to aggressively prevent wildfires was welcomed by Ed Waldron, fire management officer at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.Waldron was exhausted after fighting two fires that have been burning since late July in or near the park, whose centerpiece is a lake that fills the remains of an erupted volcano and is the deepest in the United States. But he wondered where the additional resources would come from to hire contractors to thin the fuel.For now, Waldron and other firefighters have been too busy fighting blazes that forced the closure of a road into the park to thin vegetation elsewhere.

Colorado Development fund to benefit rural counties

Biz West | Posted on September 14, 2017

Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Venture Capital Authority will allocate $9 million, and perhaps as much as $3 million more, to a rural economic development investment fund.   The agencies created the new fund to benefit innovation in rural areas that might not have access to other funding sources. Industries that could benefit include value-added agriculture, advanced manufacturing,  health and wellness, tourism and outdoor recreation, energy and natural resources, clean tech, technology and information.