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Rural News

California fires cause $1B in damage, burn 7,000 buildings

Providence Journal | Posted on October 20, 2017

The wildfires that have devastated Northern California this month caused at least $1 billion in damage to insured property, officials said Thursday, as authorities increased the count of homes and other buildings destroyed to nearly 7,000. Both numbers were expected to rise as crews continued assessing areas scorched by the blazes that killed 42 people, a total that makes it the deadliest series of fires in state history.

3 Kansas sites considered for Tyson poultry complex

Watt Ag Net | Posted on October 20, 2017

Three Kansas communities have been identified as possible sites for a new Tyson Foods broiler complex that was originally planned for the Leavenworth County community of Tonganoxie, in the northeastern part of the state. Those communities have been identified by regional media outlets as Cloud County, in north-central Kansas; Sedgwick County, in south-central Kansas; and Montgomery County, in southeastern Kansas.Tyson Foods on September 5 announced that it would build a $320 million facility in Tonganoxie that would include a poultry processing plant with a capacity to process 1.25 million birds per week, a feed mill and a hatchery.

Michigan announces formation of the Michigan Cleaner Lake Erie through Action and Research Partnership

Michigan Government | Posted on October 20, 2017

Michigan leaders today announced formation of a unique new coalition working to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The Michigan Cleaner Lake Erie through Action and Research (MI CLEAR) Partnership includes farmers, agricultural and environmental leaders, universities, conservationists, landscape professionals, energy leaders, tourism and economic development interests, and more. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Jamie Clover Adams said she was encouraged to call the diverse membership to the table as a new way to tackle the ongoing water quality challenges affecting the basin.“Our mission is to improve the water quality of the Western Lake Erie Basin through open discussion among regional leaders that brings a coordinated perspective to existing efforts,” Clover Adams said. “We will drive support for research that builds understanding of the science around water quality issues, and promote actions that bring long-term, meaningful change.” The MDARD Director said many members of this group already met once in August.

Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America

Bloomberg | Posted on October 19, 2017

In the poorest towns, where even Wal-Mart failed, the little-box player is turning a profit.The Decatur store is one of 1,000 Dollar Generals opening this year as part of the $22 billion chain’s plan to expand rapidly in poor, rural communities where it has come to represent not decline but economic resurgence, or at least survival. The company’s aggressively plain yellow-and-black logo is becoming the small-town corollary to Starbucks Corp.’s two-tailed green mermaid. (Although you can spot her on canned iced coffee at Dollar General, too.) Already, there are 14,000 one-story cinder block Dollar Generals in the U.S.—outnumbering by a few hundred the coffee chain’s domestic footprint. Fold in the second-biggest dollar chain, Dollar Tree, and the number of stores, 27,465, exceeds the 22,375 outlets of CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens combined. And the little-box player is fully expecting to turn profits where even narrow-margin colossus Walmart failed.

Wyoming wild horse roundup continues amid counting dispute

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on October 19, 2017

 A roundup of wild horses continued Monday in the desert of southwestern Wyoming after a judge declined to stop it during a lawsuit over how the animals are counted.As of Sunday, U.S. Bureau of Land Management contract workers had rounded up 1,367 adult horses and 350 foals.The agency could reach its goal of capturing 1,560 adults plus the foals of captured mares this week, bureau spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt said.The roundup is going on amid a dispute between horse advocates and federal officials over whether the foals should be included in the total count.U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal last week denied a request by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and two wildlife photographers to halt the roundup while their lawsuit against the bureau proceeds.The roundup in three remote areas began Sept. 23. The horse advocates failed to show that allowing the roundup to continue would cause irreparable harm, Freudenthal ruled.

California becomes 1st state to require pet stores to sell rescue animals

ABC News | Posted on October 19, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law bill A.B. 485, making it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from any source other than a shelter or rescue group. The law will go into effect in 2019. Thirty-six cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, already had bans on mass breeding operations.

Drug epidemic drives increase in foster care numbers, West Virginia commissioner says

Charleston Gazette Mail | Posted on October 19, 2017

More and more West Virginia children are being placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, and the state is struggling to retain enough child welfare workers to keep up with demand, the head of the Bureau for Children and Families told lawmakers Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, more than 6,100 West Virginia children are in foster care, acting BCF Commissioner Linda Watts told members of the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Watts said the number of children in foster care has risen even since she last spoke to the committee in August — mainly because of opioids.

Farms, vineyards assessing damage from wine country fires

Capital Press | Posted on October 19, 2017

Farms in California’s iconic wine country are either picking up the pieces or counting their blessings as crews gain an upper hand on wildfires that devastated the area.Among those operations is Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, Calif., whose 700 acres of produce and flowers nestled against the western slope of the Mayacamas Mountains sustained damage. Wiig has been trying to get the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department to allow farmer David Cooper and others access to the ranch to water the crops that weren’t burned, he said. Cooper lost his home and a barn to the blaze.Within the wine industry, several vintners — including Signorello Estates and White Rock Vineyards in Napa and Paradise Ridge in Santa Rosa — reported on social media that their wineries had been destroyed.And five vineyard properties totaling about 200 acres in the Potter Valley area of Mendocino County are known to have been damaged, according to the Wine Institute. But because of evacuations, some winery owners don’t have access to their properties to learn their status, the organization notes.

Policing white-supremacist rallies:lessons from small-town America

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 19, 2017

With smaller budgets and fewer personnel, several rural law-enforcement agencies have managed to protect both free speech and public safety when white supremacists come to town. While metropolitan Charlottesville erupted, these places kept the peace. So far in 2017, white supremacy or neo-Confederate groups have staged events in small towns and rural areas throughout the South. More events are likely to come. White supremacists have shown a penchant for trying to recruit in these areas. They’re also drawn to Confederate symbols, and small towns and crossroads across the South have statues or monuments to those who fought in the conflict. Despite the disparity in resources, none of these events has erupted into Charlottesville-scale violence. In April, the Traditionalist Worker Party staged a rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, a town of about 6,900 in a county of 65,000 along the state’s border with West Virginia. The group was joined by others such as the League of the South. Antifa groups gathered to protest, and the Oath Keepers, a militia group of current and former military and police who say they are unaffiliated with either side, showed up as well.In Tennessee, white supremacists have gathered in state parks for several years running. In late September, groups affiliated with white supremacy website Stormfront met at a lodge in Cumberland Mountain State Park, a little south of Crossville, a town of 11,000 in a county of 56,000, on the Cumberland Plateau. The supremacists were met by protesters who amassed nearby and shouted at them throughout the weekend.

Why save the small town?

High Country News | Posted on October 19, 2017

Cities, it seems, are inevitable. Economies of scale make it difficult to maintain the essentials of living in rural places. For most of human history, transportation and information exchange have been arduous, time-consuming and expensive; even the Pony Express operated at a loss. The idea that everything is more efficient, and therefore cheaper, when done in bulk has helped encourage cities’ growth, said Geoffrey West, a theoretical physicist with the Santa Fe Institute. West is researching the relationship between economies of scale, growth and long-term sustainability. It makes sense, he said, that cities are powerful economic engines.“Cities can be thought of as this great engine that we invented that facilitates social interactions and this positive feedback mechanism, so that we can be highly innovative, create wealth, increase the quality and standard of living,” West said. “That meant that we could do something that no other part of the biological world could do.”That historical rural-urban divide takes on a new meaning today, as only about 20 percent of the country’s population lives in rural places, compared to 60 percent in 1900. Still, the same technology that decimated some traditional ways of living in rural places may open doors that didn’t exist in the past. Do we owe anything to rural communities, which have powered and fed the country since the U.S. began?Some have gone so far as to suggest that, since the government in effect made life possible in some of these towns, that the government owes those communities a responsible exit plan. Major settlement didn’t occur in Truth or Consequences, a town of 6,000 people and several popular hot spring resorts off Interstate 25, until the federal Reclamation Act of 1902 authorized massive irrigation, which drew hundreds of construction workers needed to build a major dam. Rural electrification efforts in the New Deal era were marketed as a way to give rural Americans “a fair chance,” encouraging more people to stay in the countryside. Farming, a sometimes volatile industry where earnings can rise and fall dramatically year-to-year, has long been federally subsidized.