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Rural News

Go Home to Your ‘Dying’ Hometown

The New York Times | Posted on March 13, 2019

I feel conflicted about my role here. Rural places like this one are facing countless questions about the economy, about identity and about the environment. It’s hard to know what we need to be stewards of and sustain, and what we need to let go or confront, to build a strong future. I am what you might call a “homecomer.” Over the last eight years, I have found that my homecoming story is not unique. In Minnesota, demographers noticed several years ago a modest but persistent trend of people in their 30s and 40s taking up residence in small communities, a counterweight to the high school graduates moving away. The Pew Research Center found that, nationwide, while rural areas are home to a much smaller part of the American population than they once were, about half of rural counties, especially the ones that are not economically dependent on farming, are gaining people.And that growth reflects patterns we should examine more closely: an influx of international immigrants, and people moving in from cities. Simply panicking about the “death” of rural America gives those of us who care about and live in these places very little to learn or build on. Is there another way to think about it?

Child Enrollment in Public Health Programs Fell by 600K Last Year

Pew Trust | Posted on March 12, 2019

The number of kids enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — two government health plans for the poor — fell by nearly 600,000 in the first 11 months of 2018, a precipitous drop that has puzzled and alarmed many health policy analysts, while several states say it reflects the good news of an improving economy. Enrollment in the two programs decreased by 599,000 children in the 48 states from which the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has data from December 2017 to November 2018, the last month for which numbers are available. At the beginning of that period, Medicaid and CHIP enrolled nearly 36 million children in those states.Missouri (8.1 percent), Idaho (6.7 percent) and Utah (6 percent) experienced the biggest percentage drops in kids enrolled.

Plan to protect Colorado River still isn't done

KSL | Posted on March 7, 2019

 Another federal deadline passed Monday for seven states in the U.S. West to wrap up work on a plan to ensure the drought-stricken Colorado River can deliver water to the 40 million people and farms that depend on it. The states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — have been working for years on drought contingency plans. But Arizona and California have missed two deadlines set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and still have work to do.Without a consensus among the states, the agency will allow governors from the seven states to weigh in with recommendations on what to do next. The federal government also could step in and impose its own rules in the river's lower basin, affecting California, Arizona and Nevada.

Education cuts hurt rural Alaska

Anchorage Daily News | Posted on March 7, 2019

The proposed funding cut from Alaska’s education budget this year, I feel, is a bad idea! As an Alaska resident who has supported the education of our children in our communities, I am speaking up in opposition to this.I am a resident and tribal member of Kwigillingok, I also work at our local school. I am a mother and grandmother, as I raised four children and a grandson who graduated from our school and now have five grandchildren attending school.I have seen the school grow from the first day it opened back in 1976. Back then, it was one classroom with limited educational material. By 1980, a new school was constructed and just recently, our school was again renovated to add more classrooms and a full-size gym, up from a half-court gym.My education history started in Kwigillingok in the old Bureau of Indian Affair days. Everything was taught in English, and I did not comprehend whatever was taught from my earliest entry to school until later in the school years. I am lucky I was never whipped for speaking my language back in the day, although I heard some stories that our elders were.

U.S. plans to lift protections for gray wolves

Capital Press | Posted on March 7, 2019

U.S. wildlife officials plan to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move certain to re-ignite the legal battle over a predator that's rebounding in some regions and running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers. Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was expected to announce the proposal during a Wednesday speech before a wildlife conference in Denver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Gavin Shire said.The decision to lift protections is based on gray wolves successfully recovering from widespread extermination last century, Shire said. He said further details would be made public during a formal announcement planned in coming days.

Public health insurance option gets early Colorado House approval

Colorado Politics | Posted on March 7, 2019

The House voted Friday to require two state agencies to study and develop a proposal for the Legislature by Nov. 15. The bill goes to the Senate after another House vote.Fourteen rural counties have just one health insurer. Their residents face some of the nation's highest premiums.Republican Rep. Marc Catlin, a bill co-sponsor, says it's smart to study what a public option might look like before introducing formal legislation in 2020.

Where Unpaid Water Bills Can Mean Losing a Home

Pew Trust | Posted on March 7, 2019

 The Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr. couldn’t believe it. His Baltimore church, Friendship Baptist, got a city water bill charging him $3,000 for using 700 gallons a day — mostly during weekdays when only one person was in the building.The reverend asked for a public works department hearing on the 2014 water bill; there, officials admitted error and promised to adjust the bill. But the next quarter, he got another four-figure bill — the original $3,000 plus another $2,000. Told he was limited to just one hearing a year, he asked for another in 2015, where the city again acknowledged error.But the mistaken bills kept coming. And the department stopped holding hearings, he said. With the agency having twice admitted mistakes, Gwynn’s church decided not to pay. In 2017, the city put a lien on the church, then sold the lien.Scrambling, Gwynn sent an employee to pay the bill. They managed to persuade the city to reimburse the lien holder.


South Dakota addressing shortage of large animal vets

AgWeek | Posted on March 7, 2019

South Dakota is following the national trend when it comes to the shortage of large animal veterinarians. However, the state is also trying to be proactive in addressing the problem and that was a part of the focus of the recent James Bailey Herd Health Conference in Brookings.Farquer said he believes vet schools need to get back to finding people that grew up in rural areas and want to return there. "The challenge is finding any veterinarian that is qualified to take over the practice that wants to move to a community of 3,000 people," he says."We don't select a lot of students from rural communities and the veterinarians that are getting into vet school are currently women from dense urban areas that normally work with small companion animals," Farquer says.South Dakota is aggressively working to solve the shortage and so is SDSU with the Two-Plus-Two Program, also known as the Rural Veterinary Medical Education Program. It allows participating students to attend the first two years of veterinary school at SDSU and the last two years at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nursing Homes Are Closing Across Rural America, Scattering Residents

The New York Times | Posted on March 7, 2019

Harold Labrensz spent much of his 89-year life farming and ranching the rolling Dakota plains along the Missouri River. His family figured he would die there, too. But late last year, the nursing home in Mobridge, S.D., that cared for Mr. Labrensz announced that it was shutting down after a rocky history of corporate buyouts, unpaid bills and financial ruin. It had become one of the many nursing homes across the country that have gone out of business in recent years as beds go empty, money troubles mount and more Americans seek to age in their own homes.For Mr. Labrensz, though, the closure amounted to an eviction order from his hometown. His wife, Ramona, said she could not find any nursing home nearby to take him, and she could not help him if he took a fall at home. So one morning in late January, as a snowstorm whited out the prairie, Mr. Labrensz was loaded into the back of a small bus and sent off on a 220-mile road trip to a nursing home in North Dakota.

Art Cullen is Bringing Rural Farm Politics to the National Stage

Civil Eats | Posted on March 7, 2019

When Art Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2017, it marked an important change for the small-town newspaper editor. Cullen and his brother John run the Storm Lake Times, a twice-a-week paper staffed mainly by family members that seeks not only to knit together a strong community in the diverse, 10,000-person town of Storm Lake, Iowa, but also to keep a record of—and engage in an active conversation about—the way agriculture there has changed. The prize led Cullen to write Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper, which serves as a clear-eyed chronicle of a meat packing town built on the backs of several generations of immigrants and an era when Iowa agriculture has been shaped by a small handful of powerful corporations.The Pulitzer judges described his editorials as “fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” And Cullen’s book strikes a similarly dogged tone while complicating many of the race, class, and cultural divides at the center of our current political moment, while asking the reader to look closer and think harder about what is unfolding in America’s heartland.