Requirements aimed at curbing Tennessee’s opioid epidemic are among more than 150 new laws that kick in Sunday. Many laws take effect on July 1 each year, when a new state budget year begins, and some of the highest profile ones this time around are part of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s “TN Together” opioid plan. Tennessee will begin limiting initial opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply, with exceptions for major surgical procedures, cancer and hospice treatment, sickle cell disease and treatment in certain licensed facilities. With the three-day initial supply restriction, Haslam’s office says, “Tennessee will have one of the most strict and aggressive opioid policies in the nation.” The Tennessee Medical Association, the state’s doctor lobbying group, has said it’s still concerned about unintended consequences for patients who may have more difficulty accessing effective pain management because of the law. Among other components, the opioid laws will offer incentives to get offenders to complete substance use treatment programs in prison and make it a second degree murder charge to deal fentanyl and similar dangerous substances when it causes a death.
Florida and Georgia have been arguing about the water that flows into the Apalachicola Bay for three decades, about as long as Tommy Ward and his family have been selling oysters from the bay. Florida says Georgia draws more than its fair share of water from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers before they fuse to create the Apalachicola River. Georgia uses the water to supply thirsty Atlanta and the vast farmland south of the metropolis. But its disruption of the freshwater flow has increased the salinity of the bay and the number of oyster-eating predators, which are able to thrive in saltier water. The result: The virtual collapse of the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. During a week filled with U.S. Supreme Court-related news, many overlooked the significance of the ruling the court issued last week in the Florida-Georgia dispute: Taking a rare — if not unprecedented — stance, the court seemed to suggest that in water disputes between states, the health of an aquatic ecosystem can be considered alongside drinking-water and farming concerns. Florida’s odds did not look good as its case was headed to the Supreme Court. Ralph Lancaster, the special master appointed by the court to oversee most hearings in the case, said that though the bay had been affected by overuse of water upstream, it wasn’t clear that capping Georgia’s water use would solve the problem.But the justices disagreed, saying Lancaster used too strong a standard in evaluating whether adjustments upstream could solve problems in the Apalachicola Bay. The court remanded the case back to Lancaster who must reconsider Florida’s proposal and evidence.
The biggest asset in a rural Tennessee school district’s innovative technology project may be the school system’s rural setting and eagerness to perform at the highest level. Polk County Schools, a small district in southeast Tennessee, is using its “rural pride” and “just rolling up our sleeves and getting it done,” said Jason Bell, the district’s supervisor of secondary curriculum and assessment. “We want to represent our district and many other rural districts in the best way possible.” The ambitious project is putting computer tablets into the hands of each of its 500 middle school students and their teachers. It also provides educators with training to use the technology for instruction, homework, student motivation, and other educational purposes. Polk County Schools is one of the few rural systems in the U.S. to be named a Verizon Innovative Learning school. The designation comes with 500 iPads, 5 gigabytes of data per month for each student and teacher in the sixth through eighth grades, and professional development support for teachers.
Gov. Ralph Northam arrived to announce a new broadband initiative to improve internet services in rural areas. Northam said Virginia used to be ranked No. 1 as the state in which to do business nationwide, but has fallen down the list in recent years. “One reason for that is lack of broadband,” Northam said, particularly in rural areas. “If you go to the eastern shore, here, or west, we’re nowhere near where we need to be.” The state raised the amount of money committed to improving rural broadband from $2 million to $8 million, and the Tobacco Commission has committed $11 million to the project, the governor said.
State health officials are warning Hoosiers to take preventative measures this fair season, after an Indiana resident caught the influenza virus following a visit to a county fair. This is the first human case of the H3N2 influenza in the Indiana since 2013, and first case reported nationwide this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, food banks statewide came up with an idea. Using funding from the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and donations from the dairy industry, they got 12 tanker loads of surplus milk a local co-op was going to dump. (Milk-transport trucks can hold anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 gallons.) They took the rescued milk to local cheesemakers and made thousands of pounds to give away free at food pantries and shelters. For farmers, it meant total revenue of $165,000. Philabundance purchased 27,680 pounds of that cheese for donations, but then took the idea one step further. It bought more surplus milk to make more of the same cheese, this time to sell in fancy food stores, like DiBruno’s and Riverwards Produce in Philadelphia, under the brand Abundantly Good. For every pound of cheese sold, $1 goes back to the farmer to process milk into free cheese for hungry people. Giving people in need food of the same high quality as that sold in gourmet stores is what the whole program is really about, Bowdler said.
Farming is one of the most stressful occupations in the United States. This is particularly true for dairy farmers as they are experiencing an extended period of low milk prices. In response to the current dairy situation, the Four State Dairy Extension group is hosting three webinars that discuss how to recognize the signs of stress, how to deal with dairy farm families experiencing stress, analyzing a dairy for profits, the profitability of various dairy systems and what the Farm Financial Management Database says about production costs. The webinars will be held at 12 p.m. on July 10, 17 and 24. Presenters include Jim Salfer, University of Minnesota Extension; Larry Tranel, Fred Hall and Jenn Bentley, Iowa State Extension; John Shutske, University of Wisconsin Extension and Phil Cardoso, University of Illinois Extension. The topics discussed in the webinars are: • July 10 – Recognizing and managing stress in dairy farmers, July 17 – Knowing your cost of production and dairy outlook, July 24 – Making production decisions during challenging times.
Worried by growing demands and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Wyoming lawmakers are seeking legislation to authorize water banking in Wyoming and declare it a “beneficial use.” The proposed changes to water law could allow Wyoming to “bank” Green River water for the purpose of meeting obligations to downstream states, and in doing so keep the state’s water users from running dry in the event of a shortage.Lawmakers on two legislative committees were briefed recently of looming disruption in the Colorado River Basin due to drought and growing demand. The 1922 Colorado River Compact that determines how the basin’s water is divided among seven western states and Mexico is based on overly rosy assumptions of flows. With Lake Powell at 43 percent of capacity and falling, water managers are nervous.They fear cascading events that could limit water use, curtail power generation, reduce critical electricity revenue and jeopardize endangered species in the region where 40 million people depend on Colorado River Basin water. Flows into Lake Powell in 2018 are expected to be 51 percent of normal and a “structural deficit” is causing Lake Mead to fall at a rate of about 12 feet a year.
The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, an affiliate of the D-rated Humane Society of the United States, celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Trust’s goal is to take donated land and “[prohibit] commercial and recreational hunting and trapping, a promise that no other national land conservation organization makes.” In fact, there is good reason to suspect this $12 million organization has a bankrupt track record on conservation. The HSUS Wildlife Land Trust boasts about 20,000 acres of protected land—which is next to nothing to accumulate over two and half decades. In reality, this is very little when compared to other organizations or many of the wildlife refuges in the United States. One of many examples is the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, one of the most important sites for birds in North America, which contains nearly 80,000 acres of land.And just how are the funds being used? A quick look at the Wildlife Land Trust’s 2016 Form 990 (its most recent available) shows that of all its expenses, it is not conservation projects that eat up the lion’s share of the budget.Rather, it is “education,” direct mail, and payroll which come in at a whopping $1,137,267—or 70 percent of the funds spent. It seems the priorities of the Wildlife Land Trust lie more with their headquarters in Washington rather than with meaningful conservation efforts.
Footpaths, bike trails and car tours guide tourists and locals alike through the region’s natural and cultural heritage. The spending that accompanies the use of such trails has helped revive local economies. But wage levels remain a challenge.