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Rural News

A Road Trip Through Rusting and Rising America

New York Times | Posted on May 24, 2017

I just took a four-day car trip through the heart of that landscape — driving from Austin, Ind., down through Louisville, Ky., winding through Appalachia and ending up at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to try to answer that question.Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.Indeed, this notion that America is a nation divided between two coasts that are supposedly thriving, pluralizing and globalizing and a vast flyover interior, where jobs have disappeared, drug addiction is rife and everyone is hoping Trump can bring back the 1950s, is highly inaccurate.The big divide in America is not between the coasts and the interior. It’s between strong communities and weak communities. You can find weak ones along the coast and thriving ones in Appalachia, and vice versa. It’s community, stupid — not geography.

The New American Heartland: Renewing the Middle Class by Revitalizing Middle America

Center for Opportunity Urbanism | Posted on May 24, 2017

Manufacturing never employed most American workers. Service and manufacturing employment rose in parallel as agricultural employment declined, until manufacturing employment peaked in the 1950s at 30 percent of the workforce and began its gradual decline. By 2010 nearly 80 percent of Americans worked in the service sector.   Almost four out of ten of all ears of corn (maize) grown on earth originate in the watershed of the Mississippi River, which is also the source of most US grain, cotton, sorghum, soy, livestock and poultry. Ninety-two percent of US agricultural exports, and 78 percent of global feed, grain, and soybean exports are from the Mississippi Basin. Sixty percent of all US grain exports travel via the Mississippi through the Heartland Port of New Orleans and the Port of South Louisiana to foreign markets. The New American Heartland contains the greatest concentration of shale gas and tight oil reserves in the continental United States, and, unlike coastal states such as California and New York, the Heartland has embraced the opportunities for American-produced energy. Despite the recent decline in energy prices, demand is likely to rise as China and other developing countries increase automobile use and seek to replace coal with cleaner natural gas.

FCC votes to begin dismantling net nuetrality

Live Science | Posted on May 24, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission voted to start dismantling 2015 rules that regulated internet service providers the same way as utilities. So what does that mean for your internet access? The answer to that question will take months to hash out.   The debate swirls around two related issues: whether the internet is a public utility, and how (or if) to ensure a concept known as net neutrality. Net neutrality is the framework for an internet in which all data is treated equally. For example, a provider such as Comcast can't throttle back Netflix's streaming speeds because Netflix's video content competes with its cable offerings. Nor can a company block legal websites or apps, or require them to pay extra for a broadband boost. The net-neutrality debate is perhaps the biggest internet argument of all, and it's been going on since the late 1990s. In 1996, Congress passed the Telecom Act, leading the FCC to classify cable broadband providers as "information services" rather than "telecommunications services," which would have been subject to stricter regulation. The FCC did, however, want to do some regulating. In 2010, it passed the Open Internet Order, which prohibited ISPs from blocking, throttling or offering paid prioritization. Blocking is cutting off access to legal websites, devices or apps; throttling is degrading the service to certain devices, websites or apps so as to render them unusable; and paid prioritization is offering sites, apps or device-makers the opportunity to pay for a speed boost for their traffic

Rural Manufacturing Resilience: Factors Associated With Plant Survival, 1996-2011

USDA | Posted on May 23, 2017

The ERS Rural Manufacturing Survey is linked to employment records to examine the relationship between survival and plant- and community-level factors from 1996 to 2011.

Problems of rural Georgia easy to find, difficult to fix

Atlanta Journal Constitution | Posted on May 23, 2017

Whether it is the promise of industry that never materializes, the loss of existing factories and plants, or any of a number of other reasons, many of Georgia’s rural communities are suffering. The newest effort from state government to identify the challenges facing rural Georgia, and potential solutions, gets under way. The House Rural Development Council will have its first meeting. Its stated goal: “Work with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth.”in 2014, rural counties had just 22 percent of the state’s jobs, according to a landmark 2016 Georgia State University study called “Jobs in Georgia’s Urban and Rural Regions and Counties: Changes in Distribution, Type, and Quality from 2007 to 2014.”In it, authors Peter Bluestone and Mels de Zeeuw found that the Atlanta region and the state’s 13 “hub cities” saw 90 percent of all job growth from 2007 to 2014.The reasons are many. But a key is that urban areas were able to absorb the historical loss of manufacturing jobs by creating new service-industry positions. Rural Georgia simply lost jobs and never got them back. The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid precipitated the loss of rural hospitals, Bluestone said. The state has seen eight hospitals close in the past few years. All were in rural areas. The lack of broadband internet access is another.Automation and technology have killed manufacturing jobs as much as outsourcing and trade agreements have. Manufacturing output in the United States is actually higher than it was. There just aren’t as many humans needed to do it.By some accounts, the lack of jobs is not the problem. It’s the lack of trained and educated workers in some cases, Bluestone said.

Bringing the Dream of an Elite College to Rural Students

The New York Times | Posted on May 22, 2017

The first time Nyreke Peters met the new college adviser at his rural high school, he was skeptical. Other adults at Hobbton High School spoke with the same Southern accent and shared an easygoing familiarity that came from having gone to the same schools and having spent their lives in the same county. The adviser, Emily Hadley, was a determined recent college graduate from New Hampshire who seemed bizarrely interested in his future and pressed him to think beyond the confines of the sweet potato and hog farms.Mr. Peters, a senior, had his sights set on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but she persuaded him to apply to Middlebury College, an elite institution in Vermont that he had never heard of.A few months later, to his astonishment, he was admitted. A scholarship fund from Sampson County, a little more than an hour’s drive south of Raleigh, N.C., paid for him to visit, and he decided to attend. Ms. Hadley is part of a nonprofit organization, and a movement, trying to break down the social, economic and psychological barriers that keep low-income rural students from having a shot at the elite range of the American dream.Most low-income students rely on their parents for college advice, and many of them end up going to colleges that are less rigorous than they can handle, the research shows.Her organization, the College Advising Corps, places recent graduates in public high schools for two-year stints as full-time college advisers, where they make up for a widespread scarcity of college counselors and bring their own recent experience to bear on the college application process.

Hospital tax credit hike gains final passage

Atlanta Journal Constitution | Posted on May 20, 2017

Legislation boosting the value of a rural hospital tax credit gained final passage in the General Assembly on Thursday. The House and Senate agreed on a compromise to House Bill 180 that increases from 70 percent to 90 percent the value of the credit taxpayers can earn from contributions to qualifying rural hospitals.  Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, in 2016 championed a plan to create the tax credit program at 90 percent, but the Senate balked. A 70 percent compromise was signed into law, but the reduced value of the credit has limited their popularity.  

Rural development— and a burned out bridge

Insider Advantage | Posted on May 20, 2017

Before the ink was dry on a US Department of Transportation pledge to give $10 million for the replacement of a still smoldering collapsed portion of I-85 in Atlanta, metro legislators were criticizing a well-thought-out, hard-fought-for, and long overdue measure designed to help revitalize rural Georgia.The “Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act” (GARJA), which passed minutes before the expiration of the 2017 legislative session, opens the door for small businesses in rural Georgia, approximately 130 counties, to have access to much needed growth capital. This need is just as immediate as are the repairs to Interstate 85.The idea is to make $60 million in tax credits available to companies willing to infuse $100 million of capital in designated rural counties for job creation in industries including, but not limited to, agribusiness and manufacturing.As James Salzer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, it’s an idea that’s been around for decades– even put into practice in other states with varying degrees of success. The prior versions were found to create jobs and produce revenue for those states but since they didn’t produce at expected levels, some auditors suggested pulling the plug on the programs. This bill, crafted by Rep. Jason Show, R-Lakeland, is different. “This is the most tightly crafted bill of its kind in the country,” Shaw recently wrote.And Shaw’s right.Fees are strictly capped so that the available funds go to the intended recipient, not the fund managers. Where returns are realized on the invested sums, the state is allowed to share in those profits.Moreover, where the fund managers get out of line or the job creation targets are not met, the state– through the Department of Community Affairs– can recoup the tax credits.Those entities providing the funding are required to hold a Rural Small Business Investment Company or Small Business investment Company license. And the business must demonstrate that the benefit to Georgia’s General Fund must exceed the cost of the tax credits sought.In other words, somebody’s connected brother in law in need of a job won’t be able use smoke and mirrors claiming a qualified investment then reap the tax credits.There’s accountability as well since these growth funds must file annual reports showing “job creation and retention (a key buzz word here), average compensation and rural impact.”Contrary to its critics, Shaw’s bill is no “scheme”, it doesn’t allow a free ride where no jobs are created, the investment fund doesn’t reap an inordinate amount in fees, and the invested money has to stay in the state.

Rural Mainstreet Sinks for the Month

Creighton University Economic Outlook | Posted on May 20, 2017

Farm Loans Rise to Record Level.Survey Results at a Glance:  The overall index fell below growth neutral for the 20th straight month. Loan volume soars to record level as banks reject fewer loan applications.Almost one-third of bankers indicate no change in lending practices stemming from the downturn in the farm economy.  For 2017, bank CEOs expect approximate cash expenses to exceed cash revenues for 17.1 percent of grain farmers, down from 19.5 percent in 2016. Farmland prices declined for the 41st straight month, but the percent of cash farmland sales remained steady from 2015

'Narco-deforestation' study links loss of Central American tropical forests to cocaine

Science Daily | Posted on May 18, 2017

Central American tropical forests are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening the livelihood of indigenous peoples there and endangering some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America. The culprit? Cocaine.