Skip to content Skip to navigation

Rural News

Book review: This Blessed Earth

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 7, 2017

Journalist Ted Genoways is an award-winning author who has received prestigious fellowships from both the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation. Ted lives in Nebraska, where he grew up on his father’s farm. He is also author of This Blessed Earth, a real life tale of a year in the life of a Nebraska family farm.Family farms have changed with successive generations, with diversification of many raw food enterprises shrinking into less variety and more dependence on industrial grain and livestock—raw materials refined by corporate-owned factories where grains and oilseeds are processed into exports, ethanol, feed, protein, and fat.It hasn’t been long since corn and cattle were synonymous on family farms—one hand washing the other into a beefy end product. Not much of that has changed in the minds of farmers like Rick Hammond, his daughter Meghan, and her fiancé Kyle Galloway, but the processes taking place on farms today merely resemble a past when farm work truly covered the bases all the way from field to table.

Two thirds of rural counties have fewer jobs today than in 2007

Daily Yonder | Posted on December 7, 2017

The number of jobs in rural America increased in the last year, but rural counties remain well below their pre-recession employment level.  A comparison of the geography of jobs in 2007 and October 2017 reveals how unequal the recovery has been. Cities have done much better than rural areas in recovering from the recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Only 40 percent of urban counties have fewer jobs now than in 2007.In rural America, however, two-thirds of the counties had fewer jobs in October than in 2007.Job growth has been particularly concentrated in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. There are just over 9 million more jobs in the U.S. now than in 2007, but 87.5 percent of that gain has been in urban areas of a million or more people.The ten counties with the largest gains added just over 2.1 million jobs. Those counties included Harris, Tarrant, Dallas, Bexar and Travis in Texas; Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Riverside in California; Maricopa in Arizona and Kings County in New York City.

The graying of rural America continues

LaCrosse Tribune | Posted on December 7, 2017

When I was young, you could drive up and down country roads and almost everyone was milking cows. Now you can drive for miles between dairy farms.It’s not just dairy. In the most recent Census of Agriculture done in 2012, there were 69,754 farms in Wisconsin, a decrease from 78,463 in 2007. I wonder what the 2017 Census, which is coming our way starting in December, will show when results are released in 2019.Farming hasn’t disappeared. It’s just changing. Some farms are growing larger. More land is leased. Our vision of the family farm — 94 percent of Wisconsin farm acreage is still connected to family-owned operations — is just different.The debate whether that’s good or bad is ongoing, but there is one indisputable fact: Farmers are growing older.Earlier this year Minnesota approved a law supported by the young-farmers coalition that provides state income-tax credits to beginning farmers to help offset the costs of buying or leasing land, farm equipment and livestock. The farmers must take a farm-management class, which is also covered by the tax credit.Perhaps it’s time for similar legislation in Wisconsin. A recent effort was a bill introduced in 2015 called the New Farmer Student Loan Assistance Program, which would have reimbursed up to $30,000 of student loan debt over five years for new farmers.

Trophy hunting may cause extinction in a changing environment

Science Daily | Posted on December 5, 2017

Trophy hunting and other activities involving the targeting of high-quality male animals could lead to the extinction of certain species faced with changing environmental conditions, according to new research.

USDA’s new Innovation Center, and its new chief, face big challenges

Agri-Pulse | Posted on December 5, 2017

Anne Hazlett, who oversees Rural Development at USDA, wants to get the word out that RD’s new Innovation Center will soon be open for business, with a new executive at the helm and a long list of challenges to face, including the opioid epidemic that’s been devastating rural communities. In an interview Thursday with Agri-Pulse, Hazlett (pictured above) introduced Gina Sheets, who served as director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture under then Governor Mike Pence, as the new Chief Innovation Officer. Sheets says her team, which is still being organized, will be working to “streamline and modernize” the delivery of the 40 or so services Rural Development provides to rural communities.

For Colleges, A Rural Reckoning

Wall Street Journal | Posted on December 5, 2017

Spooked by rising hostility in Trump country, elite schools are seeking small-town students.That dislocation reflects the widening gulf between white, working-class, rural America and the nation’s more selective institutions of higher education. Elite colleges have tried for years to address a proportional decline of students arriving from areas beyond big cities and suburbs, but their worries have sharpened since the election of Donald Trump. Recent surveys show mounting skepticism, especially among Mr. Trump’s constituents, about the cost and worth of college. Republican lawmakers have also proposed cuts to federal funding and tax breaks for higher education.In response, some institutions are redoubling their efforts to court students from rural—and politically conservative—areas, much as they have long sought out minority students from inner cities. “These predominantly white students from low-income and working-class families have been overlooked for a long time,” said Bob Freund, who runs a nonprofit program based at Franklin & Marshall that has helped place rural students in Pennsylvania colleges, including Ms. Richey. “It’s just beginning to change.”The education gap between rural and urban residents has been growing for decades. Though college attendance has risen for both groups, the rural rise has been smaller, and the gap has more than doubled—from seven points in 1980 to 16 points by 2015. Meanwhile, multiple studies have shown admissions biases against rural students with financial needs.

As N.J.'s black bear population thrives, it's the hunt that's endangered

The Philadelphia Inquirer | Posted on December 5, 2017

As New Jersey’s black bears fatten on fallen beechnuts, on Monday hunters will get one more crack at “harvesting” the state’s largest land animal before it hunkers down for the winter. It’s possible this could be the last such hunt for a while and the first of several potential environmentally related policy reversals the Garden State could face in the coming years as Democrat Phil Murphy replaces Gov. Christie. Murphy is pledging to institute a moratorium on the hunt.In the first round, 243 bears were killed — a big decrease from 2016 when 562 bears were killed in the same time period. The second segment, from Dec. 4 through 9, will be limited to firearms. the state aims to cull a certain ratio of bears each year, amounting to about 30 percent of tagged bears. That reduces the potential for human contact, while still sustaining a reproducible population.In past years, the state had trouble reaching that 30 percent level. So, in 2016, it made two separate black bear hunting segments.

Some puppies brought from Puerto Rico have Leptospirosis

NBC | Posted on December 4, 2017

A group of dogs rescued from Puerto Rico and brought to New Hampshire have fallen ill, and now state health officials have a warning for residents who may have contracted the bacterial infection. Two of the ten rescued dogs have died from the infection. The woman who rescued them tells NBC Boston that she’s doing everything she can to keep the rest of the puppies alive.

To Cut Drug Prices, Academy of Sciences Tells the Government to Negotiate With Manufacturers

The New York Times | Posted on December 2, 2017

The National Academy of Sciences called Thursday for sweeping changes in the pricing, sale and promotion of prescription drugs to make lifesaving treatments more affordable without discouraging the development of new medicines. The federal government should negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, the academy said, an idea pushed by Democrats for years, embraced by President Trump during the 2016 campaign, but opposed by congressional Republicans. The government, it said, should also deny tax deductions for drug advertising aimed at consumers and set annual limits on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.“Consumer access to effective and affordable medicines is an imperative for public health, social equity and economic development,” a panel of 17 experts said in a report issued by the academy. “However, this imperative is not being adequately served by the biopharmaceutical sector today.”

American farm towns, with changing priorities, reject industrial agriculture

Wall Street Journal | Posted on November 30, 2017

Rural Americans are turning their backs on the industry that made the U.S. the biggest meat-exporting country in the world. Residents of Tonganoxie, a 5,300-person town in northeast Kansas, spent part of the fall hanging white-and-red placards that say “No Tyson in Tongie” on fenceposts and pickup trucks. Their efforts were part of a public push against Tyson Foods Inc., TSN 0.10% the largest U.S. meat processor by sales, which trumpeted in early September its plans to build a $320 million chicken-processing complex just south of town.The investment, Tyson said, would bring 1,600 jobs to the area and deliver $150 million annually to the Kansas economy, in part because it would pay local farmers to raise chickens and buy locally grown grain to feed them. “Kansas will be an outstanding home for this Tyson complex,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who joined Tyson staff and local elected officials in Tonganoxie when they unveiled the plan.Many residents, including farmers, disagreed. Online, they raised alarms about groundwater pollution, infrastructure burdens and noxious smells. With a relatively strong economy, and job flexibility that comes from proximity to the Kansas City metropolitan area, many weren’t persuaded by the promised economic benefits. Critics railed at Tyson’s proposed plant on radio shows and in local newspapers, and crowded into city council and county board meetings by the hundreds.