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Rural News

Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico's food supply — here's what the island's farms look like now

Business Insider | Posted on October 11, 2017

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the devastation to Puerto Rico has sunk in. Many of the island's 3.4 million residents are still without access to power, running water, and health services. The Category 4 storm also left Puerto Rico without most of its farmland, roughly a quarter of the island's land divided into over 13,000 farms.  After Maria barreled through with 155-mph winds, it wiped out approximately 80% of the territory's crop value.

Rural Manufacturing Survival and Its Role in the Rural Economy

Amber Waves - USDA | Posted on October 11, 2017

Manufacturing is more important to the rural economy than to the urban economy. Rural manufacturing plants survive longer than urban plants, making rural areas better poised to retain manufacturing jobs.Access to financial capital is strongly associated with rural plant survival, while State and local tax rates may not be. However, U.S. manufacturing employment has been declining since the 1950s. Between 2001 and 2015, a period that included the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, manufacturing employment fell by close to 30 percent. Because of manufacturing’s prevalence in rural America, this decline hit rural areas disproportionately hard. A better understanding of the factors affecting the survival of rural manufacturing plants may help develop strategies to retain these jobs. Despite the sector’s declining employment since the 1950s, manufacturing jobs still represented 14 percent of rural private nonfarm jobs in 2015 (compared to 7 percent for urban). As a share, manufacturing earnings are even more important to rural America. Manufacturing earnings represented 21 percent of rural private nonfarm earnings in 2015 (compared to 11 percent for urban).

Sportsmen See Bad Precedent in Reopening Compromise to Protect Western Range Bird

DTN | Posted on October 10, 2017

 Leaders for sportsmen's and conservation groups in Western states are becoming more critical over the Trump administration's decision last week to reopen a protection agreement for the greater sage grouse in 11 states. After months of internal discussions, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced last week it would reopen public comments on 98 greater sage grouse land-management plans across the West. BLM cited the need to respond to a U.S. District Court decision last March out of Nevada in which a federal judge ruled BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 by failing to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the sage grouse land management plans in Nevada. The court case stemmed from a pair of counties and a mining firm fearful of mining restrictions because of the sage grouse compromise.The decision comes after BLM also canceled 10 million acres of proposed sagebrush protection for the grouse in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, opening up those lands for energy development.

Struggling Hastings, Potato Capital of Florida, might soon vote town out of existence

The Florida Times Union | Posted on October 10, 2017

The old town hall and community center, a once-vital building on a once-vital Main Street, dominates the downtown of this old potato- and cabbage-farming town. It’s two stories high and sprawling, and if you squint deeply you can imagine it in its heyday, many decades ago. Hastings was founded in 1890 when Florida railroad and hotel king Henry Flagler sent a relative, Thomas Horace Hastings, inland to grow vegetables for his Flagler’s resorts. It was incorporated as a town 19 years later.In Hastings’ heyday, potatoes and cabbages flooded in from surrounding farms to be processed, packed and shipped by rail or truck across the country. Businesses lined busy Main Street. The Dixie Highway, the main north-south route from Michigan to Miami, came through town in 1916, paved with bricks and busy with vacationers. By the railroad track at the town limits is an old potato-packing plant that once employed hundreds of people. It’s abandoned now.A trip to the supermarket or drugtore means heading down Florida 207 through flat farm land to Palatka or St. Augustine; schoolchildren all have to leave the town limits for class.It’s gotten to this point: In November, Hastings voters will decide if the town government should dissolve itself. Hastings would still be a mailing address but, as a town, it would no longer exist.Instead, it would become an unincorporated part of St. Johns County, which would then take over management of the area early next year.Stanton, 62, pushed to get dissolution on the ballot, saying his hometown is in such financial straits — population is small, tax revenues and property values have declined, businesses have moved out or failed — that there are no other options.

Minnesota launches rural crisis helpline

edairynews | Posted on October 10, 2017

The day illustrated that as a farmer herself, Moynihan understands about the need for a new state program she just planted at the Minnesota Agriculture Department: Farm and Rural Helpline. The line is a new service, replacing an earlier farm crisis line, that allows rural Minnesotans to call (833) 600-2670 to deal with all sorts of problems, even if they do not rise to crisis level, Moynihan said.“Farmers love to farm, but it is an extremely challenging profession,” she said on the dreary Friday.They have no control over costs such as for implements, seed and fertilizer. Others control how much they are paid for crops, milk and livestock.In the fall, “you are watching the clock for frost and watching the skies for rain. It can be a very stressful time.”In the spring, “you realize you are borrowing a lot.”So it is no surprise that mental health issues are big in rural areas. The helpline will be answered by trained counselors who can help immediately and can refer rural Minnesotans to other resources, such as finance experts.

How Intermountain Healthcare Developed Its Pain Management Strategy

L.E.K. | Posted on October 9, 2017

The CDC estimates that nearly 80 people die of opioid overdose each day in the United States. Opioid overuse is a critical issue, and the need for interventions is becoming an urgent priority for many health systems. Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare has made preventing prescription opioid misuse a top community health priority. Utah ranks eighth in the nation for opioid overdose deaths. In 2016, Intermountain helped create an Opioid Community Collaborative, partnering with public health organizations, behavioral health providers and law enforcement agencies to address the problem, which is causing nearly one death in Utah every day.In addition, Intermountain caregivers made developing a comprehensive pain management strategy a top priority. Intermountain sought to develop an end-to-end pain management strategy to tackle the opioid over-prescription problem head-on, while maintaining quality pain management for patients.

More suitors emerge for Tyson project in Kansas

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 5, 2017

Officials in at least two counties in Kansas are expected to send formal letters seeking to attract Tyson Foods to build its embattled chicken complex in their communities, according to published reports. The Saline County Commission sent a letter to Tyson officials supporting efforts of nearby Cloud County to bring the $320 million project – and the anticipated 1,600 jobs – to north central Kansas. The letter said the proposed poultry complex will offer prospective employees a wide selection of homes for sale and rental properties, an excellent transportation network and a “welcoming location” for the project in Concordia, Kan

MD:Wanted: proposals for a small processing facility

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 5, 2017

The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission has issued a request for proposals for an entity to develop, manage and operate a meat processing facility for the region's farming community. The facility is planned to be a public-private partnership with minimum processing capability of 500 bovines and 2,000 sheep/goats/hogs and an optional ability to process additional livestock species including poultry. The ideal capacity is 3,000 animals per year, the group said. The contract will be awarded for a term of up to 9 years.

State attorneys general seek more beds for drug treatment

AP | Posted on October 5, 2017

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general on Monday called on Congress to allow Medicaid funding to flow to larger drug treatment centers, potentially expanding the number of addicts who can get help as the nation grapples with an overdose crisis. The government lawyers for 38 states and Washington, D.C., sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting the change. They say it’s needed to help fight the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic, which continues to claim tens of thousands of lives a year.

Wildfires Put State Budgets Under Pressure

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on October 5, 2017

The wildfires that tore through over a million acres of Montana this year damaged homes, cloaked communities in smoke, and burned a hole in the state budget.   With winter snow already falling, Montana’s blazes mostly have subsided. But the state now faces a $200 million budget shortfall exacerbated by the record cost of fighting wildfires, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said in an early September statement explaining the crisis. “We are also facing the most expensive fire season in state history, requiring spending of over $60 million to date.”State and federal lawmakers across the country are looking back on a record fire season and asking whether there’s a way to better prepare financially for major wildfires. The federal government spent more than $2 billion on fires from Florida to Washington this year. States spend untold millions more.As the wildfire season lengthens and the fires become larger and more dangerous — a trend driven by a number of factors, including climate change — both state and federal natural resource departments are spending more time and money on firefighting and less on other forest management programs that help the land recover after wildfires, or lessen the impact of future fires.