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Rural News

CoBank sees mixed but improving outlook for rural America in 2018

Agri-Pulse | Posted on January 20, 2018

A new report from CoBank has some good news and bad news for the farm economy in 2018. The co-op bank’s Knowledge Exchange Division projects an expanding global economy, strong U.S. consumer confidence and persistent economic recovery in many rural areas. However, it also forecasts another year of belt-tightening due to “lingering stress” from low commodity prices.“The rural economy is uniquely impacted by what happens in Washington, the broader U.S. economy and around the world,” says Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “In the coming year, rural America will rise with the broader economic tide, but it will also contend with persistent barriers to prosperity.”

Pet Translator: Scientist Developing Device To Convert Dog Barks Into English Language

Tech Times | Posted on January 17, 2018

An AI algorithm can convert the vocalizations of prairie dogs into English. Now, animal behavior expert Con Slobodchikoff is working on a pet translator that can translate a dog's barks into human language.The idea of humans being able to talk to and understand animals may soon become a reality. A researcher is working on a device that may be used as a pet language translator in the future.

Ga. Will Need To Ease Regulations, Provide Cash To Expand Rural Broadband

WABE | Posted on January 17, 2018

Georgia lawmakers said they want to expand access to the Internet. Internet service providers have said with the repeal of net neutrality, they’re more inclined to invest in rural areas, but it’s not clear companies will invest without public dollars. Georgia lawmakers have prioritized expanding internet access through the Rural Development Council, said state Rep. Ed Setzler. “There’s a recognition that a funding source of some kind needs to be identified to bring people who live in rural areas up to a baseline level of access,” Setzler said.However, he doesn’t know yet where the state will find the money to invest in broadband.

New Approach to Curb Chronic Wasting Disease

Public News Service | Posted on January 17, 2018

Montana is wrestling with the best way to manage Chronic Wasting Disease among deer, elk and moose.  One wildlife specialist maintains preserving predators is the answer. Under its current plan, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has set up survey hunts of deer to determine where hotbeds of CWD are located. The state's second survey hunt in north central Montana began last weekend, and lasts through Feb. 15. But Norman Bishop, a retired wolf interpreter at Yellowstone National Park who has studied wolves for decades, says protecting predators could be a better solution for eliminating the neurological disease."Not just wolves but also, mountain lions have been shown to be pretty effective at selecting and taking prey that's disadvantaged or disabled, and that includes those with CWD," he points out.Bishop says a number of studies confirm that wolves and mountain lions are able to detect diseased prey, even animals that aren't visibly sick to humans. He says the steep decline in predators likely is one reason CWD is taking hold in the region. 

Prairie dog endangered-species plan eases rules under Trump

The Salt Lake Tribune | Posted on January 17, 2018

Wildlife managers under the Trump administration are moving to loosen endangered-species protections for Utah prairie dogs, flipping the script in a long-running conflict over federal policies in a town where residents say they’re overrun by the creatures.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan would allow prairie dogs to be killed or removed from private property more often, relaxing regulations designed to protect the species.

US Supreme Court Won't Hear Prairie Dog Protections Lawsuit

US News and World Report | Posted on January 17, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from Utah property owners challenging endangered-species protections for prairie dogs, but the plaintiffs say the case has nevertheless made a mark as the Trump administration moves to loosen the rules.The lawsuit was a key driver of the new federal plan that would make it easier to remove or kill prairie dogs when they interfere with development of homes and business, lawyers for the residents of the southwestern city of Cedar City said Monday.

Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration

The Washington Post | Posted on January 17, 2018

More than three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service have quit out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of 10 out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration. In May 2017, Zinke suspended all outside committees while his staff reviewed their composition and work. In a letter to the secretary on Monday, departing board chairman Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, wrote that he and eight other members “have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law.” All of the signatories, who serve as unpaid volunteers, had terms set to expire in May.,

America's Rural Hospitals Are Dangerously Fragile

The Atlantic | Posted on January 17, 2018

This is the story of a small-town, publicly-owned hospital that, after thriving for decades, is struggling and now in all likelihood about to be appended to a large regional health-care system. The tale of Berger Municipal Hospital is, like that of many sectors of the American economy, one defined by industrial consolidation and the costs that come with it. Last November, however, Circleville’s voters chose another direction, one that, in other places, has resulted in an economic hit to the community—mostly in the form of job losses and stagnant wages—as well as a lowered quality of care. At the urging of city and county leaders, and Berger’s administrators, residents voted to allow local politicians and the hospital’s board to begin a process to turn Berger, one of the last publicly owned and operated hospitals in the state, into a nonprofit private corporation. Following that, Berger would most likely be integrated into a larger regional system, probably the Columbus-based nonprofit Ohio Health, with which Berger has an ongoing relationship. The hospital and the local leaders campaigned hard for that approval, but not because it was the ideal future they envisioned. They feared that Berger wouldn’t survive any other way.

Rural areas short on workers turn to overseas professionals

High Country News | Posted on January 17, 2018

Cherie Taylor, CEO at Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank, Montana, currently has four Filipino nurses on her staff. The rural health facility employs a total of 12 full-time registered nurses, which includes 10 floor nurses and two nursing administrative positions. “We have a national registered nurse shortage and all the U.S. nurses cannot fill the vacancies,” Taylor says. “Thank goodness a lot of baby boomers are hanging on and not retiring, or we would be in a national crisis right now.” Taylor adds NRMC might be recruiting a fifth Filipino nurse if she can’t fill her last RN vacancy with a nurse from the U.S. Shelby Schools Superintendent Elliott Crump knows first-hand about the teacher shortage in Montana. The Montana Office of Public Instruction reported 638 full-time openings in the state’s “difficult or hard to fill” teaching positions in 2016-17 and Crump’s school district had four of them. When no qualified applicants from Montana — or anywhere else in the United States — applied for those jobs, he started looking outside the United States and ended up hiring four teachers from the Philippines.

Can rural towns stem the trend of population decline?

High Country News | Posted on January 17, 2018

“I’m really into formulas,” says Choteau Area Port Authority board member Blair Patton. “People who are successful know the formula. You do not have a successful small community accidentally. There is a focused, purposeful action that leads into that.” The downward population trend and the loss of school-age children and jobs that support families are forcing Choteau and other rural Montana communities to think strategically about confronting and reversing these declines.The Choteau community has been proactive through the years. The community partnered with Montana State University on an economic development project and with MSU Extension on an anti-poverty initiative. The city established a Revolving Loan Fund to help existing businesses and start-ups.In September, the Choteau City Council created the Choteau Area Port Authority — a board that has statutory power to aid economic development. Port authorities are supported by property taxes, grants and other revenue and may or may not involve a “port” of any kind.