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Rural News

Massachusetts pressured to expand conservation tax credit

Eagle Tribune | Posted on August 17, 2016

A tax break for landowners who shield property from development has a nearly three-year wait because of a state cap that environmentalists say is undermining conservation efforts.  Landowners who set aside property under the state program can get income tax credits for 50 percent of their land's value. A landowner may claim up to $75,000 in tax credits, but the program is capped statewide at $2 million per year.  Environmental groups want to raise the limit to $5 million, if not eliminate it.

COE Rejects Arizona Vet School Proposal

Veterinary Practice News | Posted on August 17, 2016

The University of Arizona’s plan to open the nation’s 31st veterinary school was dealt a severe setback when the Council on Education refused to issue a letter of reasonable assurance of accreditation, UA announced today. The decision will be appealed, said Shane C. Burgess, Ph.D., the interim dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine.  Council chairman John R. Pascoe, BVSc, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVS, told UA in a letter that the school’s plan fell short on five of the 11 standards that colleges of veterinary medicine are expected to meet. The areas of concern were finances, clinical resources, research, students and faculty.

How Rural Farming Communities Are Fighting Economic Decline

NPR | Posted on August 17, 2016

The vacant storefronts on Main Street make it clear that the town is no longer in its prime. Like many rural towns, Brookfield's top moneymakers in decades past were agriculture, transportation and manufacturing. While those industries still exist today, each has taken a hit. The town lost an auto plant. The railroad station is no longer bustling. And farming isn't bringing in as much as it used to. This story is a familiar one for thousands of towns across rural America. It mostly comes down to technology — because of advances like herbicide-resistant seeds and more efficient tractors, farms need fewer employees. The number of farm jobs in the U.S. plummets by 14 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture. "What does that mean for a rural community?" asks Mary Hendriockson, a rural sociologist at the University of Missouri, who says there's a ripple effect. "How are you going to sell insurance if those people aren't there? How are you going to have a bank if those people aren't there? How are you going to have a grocery store?"  Pair that with young people fleeing to cities, Hendrickson says, and you're left with small towns that just fade away. "These things just kind of work in tandem," she says. "So we have to ask a lot of questions about what's the future of rural development for these farming-dependent counties."

The brave new world of robots and lost jobs

The Washington Post | Posted on August 17, 2016

The deeper problem facing the United States is how to provide meaningful work and good wages for the tens of millions of truck drivers, accountants, factory workers and office clerks whose jobs will disappear in coming years because of robots, driverless vehicles and “machine learning” systems. The political debate needs to engage the taboo topic of guaranteeing economic security to families — through a universal basic income, or a greatly expanded earned-income tax credit, or a 1930s-style plan for public-works employment. Ranting about bad trade deals won’t begin to address the problem. The “automation bomb” could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States, representing about $2 trillion in annual wages, according to a study last year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. We’ve seen only the beginning of this change, they warned. Currently, only 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but 60 percent of occupations could soon see machines doing 30 percent or more of the work.

Florida Locals Bugged by Proposed Release of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

U S News | Posted on August 17, 2016

Locals in the Florida Keys are concerned about the prospect of their community becoming a testing ground for the release of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes marketed as a solution to the Zika virus, and plan to protest the potential experiment.Ultimately, however, the decision will be up to the five-member mosquito control board. Three members have said they will support whatever the public decides, according to a spokeswoman for the board, but two are up for re-election and one is retiring, and the final decision could come before or after the new members begin their terms in January.Oxitec – the British biotechnology company that created the mosquitoes – hopes to release them into the area to test their effectiveness in reducing the population of the type of mosquito that can spread Zika, which has plagued communities in Latin America and the Caribbean and has sparked fears of outbreaks in the US, particularly in Gulf states like Florida. The same type of mosquito can spread diseases like dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

California is in flames right now, with fires fueled by historic drought

The Washington Post | Posted on August 17, 2016

California is burning.  The state has nine active wildfires as large as 25 acres or more, including the massive Clayton fire north of San Francisco that forced nearly 1,500 residents to flee their homes after it erupted Saturday in dry conditions created by the state’s extreme drought. On Sunday the blaze doubled in size.  “The winds really kicked up, and the fire crossed over tentative lines in place [to slow its advance] and started impacting a whole new area,” Suzie Blankenship, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Monday. “Once it creates that momentum, it really moves. They had a good handle on it. We had this fire contained at 5 percent Saturday. But today it’s still 5 percent. It tells you that the fire keeps moving and moving and moving in different directions.”

What $100 can buy, state by state

Boston Globe | Posted on August 17, 2016

Spend enough time traveling around the United States and you’re bound to notice a dramatic variation in what a dollar can buy.  Everything from the price of a cup of coffee to the cost of a house can fluctuate among, and even within, states. A gallon of regular gas costs $2.74 in Hawaii but just $1.82 in South Carolina. The average Connecticut resident pays twice as much for electricity as the average Tennessee resident. Tuition at public colleges varies by orders of magnitude. Fortunately, the federal government now measures these variations.The most recent data, published in July by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, shows that a dollar can swing more than 30 percent in terms of what it can buy. The “real value” of a dollar is highest in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, South Dakota, and Kentucky. It buys the least in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, California, and Maryland.

This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working.

The Washington Post | Posted on August 16, 2016

Throughout his administration, as part of a push to connect the homeless population to services, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents told him they didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go. Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city. In partnership with a local nonprofit that serves the homeless population, a van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour, which is above minimum wage, and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, the participants are offered overnight shelter as needed. In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.

Nearly 10K lionfish removed from Gulf so far

Pensacola News Journal | Posted on August 16, 2016

Thanks to participants in the Lionfish Challenge and Panhandle Pilot Program — both conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission — nearly 10,000 lionfish have been removed from Florida waters so far. Since the May 14 kickoff, 9,216 lionfish have been eradicated from the Gulf. Sixty-eight divers have entered the statewide Lionfish Challenge, which rewards divers for taking 50 or more lionfish. Twenty-three of those qualified for the Panhandle Pilot Program, which rewards divers for every 100 lionfish removed from Escambia through Franklin counties, where lionfish densities tend to be higher. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this area between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a legal-sized red grouper or a legal-sized cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters. In addition, the first 10 people or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef. Two teams have qualified to name an artificial reef so far.

How to give rural America broadband? Look to the early 1900s

New York Times | Posted on August 15, 2016

"The Cooperative is doing it again, but now the light buld is the internet."  said Mr. Creason, 82.  Mr. Creason's experience with the electric co-op puts him at the leading edge of a trend unfolding in hard-to-reach rural spots natinwide.