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Rural News

Florida: Commissioner Adam Putnam Waives Rules to Help Puerto Ricans Evacuate with Pets

NASDA | Posted on October 4, 2017

In an effort to support the safe evacuation of Puerto Ricans and their pets, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam issued an emergency order suspending import paperwork requirements for pets that arrive in Florida with their evacuee owners. This emergency order does not apply to stray animals or livestock. “Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico face a long road to recovery, and they need all the support we can provide,” said Commissioner Adam H. Putnam. “By removing some of the hurdles for evacuees coming to Florida with companion pets, we’re making the process of evacuating to Florida easier.”

BLM backs out of Sage Grouse pact

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 4, 2017

When federal land-management agencies pulled out of an inter-agency agreement to protect sage-grouse habitat in Utah in September, the federal Treasury picked up an additional $15,000 from energy companies for public-land leases. The federal government may have to spend many times that amount on legal actions related to the dissolution of the land management agreement, say conservationists. And outdoor-business industry leaders say the decision to abandon the agreement will also take money out of the pockets of local businesses that cater to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.The public land that the Department of Interior opened to private fossil fuel development is in Juab County, Utah, in prime sage-grouse habitat. The bird’s population is dwindling, but federal agencies worked with conservation groups to keep the bird off the endangered species list through a widely-celebrated collaborative conservation initiativeThe agreement was hailed as a common-sense approach that protects the bird without having to list it as endangered, which triggers stricter rules, including a hunting ban.Interior’s Bureau Land of Management (BLM) pulled out of the agreement in September and announced a nine-parcel auction for oil and gas exploration on BLM land in Utah’s West Desert. Only three of the public land offers attracted bids, and those bids just met the minimum price of $2 an acre. Total BLM proceeds from the lease were $14,837. The BLM rationale for the sale was stated as “keeping with the administration’s goals of promoting America’s energy independence.”Conservationists and businesses leaders say there is much more at stake with potential damage to the outdoor recreation industry in Utah. Similar public land leases are likely to continue in sage grouse habitat across the West, according to Interior Department officials who briefed the New York Times. Internal staff reported that under Trump Administration appointee Ryan Zinke, the department intends “to publish a formal notice of intent to amend 98 sage grouse habitat management plans across 10 states.”

Public TV puts rural America in the spotlight

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 4, 2017

Public TV. It’s where we got to see “Medora,” a film about the Hornets, the high school basketball team in a small Indiana town, and its struggle to resist the consequences of school consolidation. And “Deep Down,”  about a community conflict over mountaintop removal in eastern Kentucky. And “A Class Apart,” about the lawsuit that resulted from a murder in small-town Texas and challenged the legal discrimination of Latinos. And “Weaving Worlds,” about the makers of the legendary Navajo rugs. And “Next Year Country,” about Montana farmers who turn to real-life rainmakers in a time of drought. Public TV reaches more parts of America than commercial broadcast TV, because it hits small town and rural areas that commercial broadcasters don’t find worth their time. Its most popular program service, PBS, is consistently rated the most trusted media brand in America. But to some Trump-era officials, it’s un-American. The Trump budget released earlier this year called for total defunding of public broadcasting. A deeply conservative Congressman, Andy Harris (R-MD), was more mild-mannered. He only asked for defunding of the radio news service NPR and the public TV documentary production service Independent Television Service (ITVS). Why? Too “liberal.” He singled out three programs on public TV that feature women of color as evidence. He said public broadcasting shouldn’t fund “controversial, out-of-mainstream programming”—that is, anything by or about someone who doesn’t look like the (OK, you and I can say it out loud if he can’t, “white”) majority.

Dems call for $40B to boost rural broadband

The Hill | Posted on October 2, 2017

Congressional Democrats are calling for a $40 billion investment to expand internet access in rural and inner-city communities, likening their plan to New Deal efforts to expand the electrical grid. The new proposal is the latest addition to the party's "Better Deal" agendalaunched in July.Democrats say public funds are needed because internet service providers on their own have failed to cover large swaths of the population. Under the plan, the $40 billion would go toward funding private and public infrastructure projects, mapping internet access across the country, upgrading outdated internet capabilities and building out public safety infrastructure.

Massive, unregulated networks move dogs into Virginia to save them from death.

The Virginian Pilot | Posted on October 2, 2017

These volunteers spend their time and money to rescue dogs from municipal shelters by shuttling them to fosters or adopters in other parts of the country. They see it as a win for everyone – it eases overcrowding at shelters, keeps dogs from being euthanized and loving families get pets. But there are no laws in the U.S. about tracking dogs moving across state lines. Rescue groups say they self-police and emphasize transparency, but critics say the lack of regulation may put adopters at risk if they unwittingly take in dogs with behavioral problems. They say details about a dog’s past aggression can be lost in the shuffle or obscured by well-meaning rescuers. The daughter of the Virginia Beach woman who was killed said in a lawsuit that’s what happened to her. She wasn’t made aware of Blue’s bite history when she adopted him. Media from around the country have reported similar incidents. There are some pushing for legislative oversight of this pet pipeline, but few inroads have been made. In the meantime, thousands of dogs are moving across state lines every year with little oversight.

Want to Know What Divides This Country? Come to Alabama

The New York Times | Posted on October 2, 2017

“Just wow,” Peggy and Mark Kennedy said to each other last week in Montgomery, Ala. On the TV, Roy Moore had just pulled a little pistol from a pocket of his cowboy costume to show his love for the Second Amendment. The next night he won the Republican nomination in the race to be their next senator. Peggy, née Wallace, braced for a new round of interviews, having often been asked during the presidential campaign to compare Donald Trump with her father, the segregationist governor George C. Wallace. “But my daddy was qualified” for office, she would say, long since a supporter of Barack Obama.She and Mr. Kennedy, a predecessor of Mr. Moore on the state Supreme Court, represent one current of Alabama history — a slice of the population yearning against the “fear and anger and hate” that Ms. Kennedy says her father exploited, and ultimately repented of. Not long ago, the path of progress seemed inevitable. At the time of the church bombing, after which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Wallace that “the blood of our little children is on your hands,” the governor seemed to be the toxic tribune of a fading order. That arc of the universe seemed on track 23 years later when Alabama’s Democratic senator Howell Heflin, Mr. Jones’s old boss, cast the decisive vote against a federal judgeship for Jeff Sessions. In 1986, Mr. Sessions was considered beyond the moral pale.Now Mr. Sessions is the attorney general, having vacated Mr. Heflin’s old Senate seat (the same one Mr. Moore and Mr. Jones hope to fill), and his zealous nativism set the scene for a winning presidential campaign. Donald Trump has upended the reconciliation script, recasting white nationalists as the victims — of an elite that includes an Ayn Rand-reading Republican House speaker as well as an arugula-eating black Democrat.

Senators press agriculture rural development assistant on funding, FCC relationship

The Fence Post | Posted on October 2, 2017

Anne Hazlett, assistant to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on rural development, came under pressure Sept. 28 from several senators on whether she will push for money for programs President Donald Trump proposed eliminating and on whether the USDA will formally weigh in with the Federal Communications Commission on fixed versus wireless broadband internet access. The interactions occurred at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on rural development and energy programs in the next farm bill.Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said rural development is one of the reasons he stayed on the agriculture committee, and said it is vital to find "new resources" for the community facilities program to combat the opioid drug addiction crisis.Leahy then asked Hazlett, "Are you going to push for providing them?"But Hazlett responded only that, "you have my commitment to steward the resources that are provided."

Farm mega-homes are on the rise, and their owners may be benefitting from huge tax breaks

Business Insider | Posted on September 28, 2017

North America is seeing an increasing number of "farm mega-homes," large estates built on agricultural land. Even if mansion owners are not farming on a large scale, some have the ability to receive hefty tax exemptions, a loophole that city councils are trying to regulate.The loss of agricultural land to housing development could have consequences in the future. Farmland in North America is not only facing threats from increasingly temperatures and prolonged droughts — but also from the rise of mansions. 

How to Win a War on Drugs

The New York Times | Posted on September 28, 2017

Decades ago, the United States and Portugal both struggled with illicit drugs and took decisive action — in diametrically opposite directions. The U.S. cracked down vigorously, spending billions of dollars incarcerating drug users. In contrast, Portugal undertook a monumental experiment: It decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, even heroin and cocaine, and unleashed a major public health campaign to tackle addiction. Ever since in Portugal, drug addiction has been treated more as a medical challenge than as a criminal justice issue. After more than 15 years, it’s clear which approach worked better. The United States drug policy failed spectacularly, with about as many Americans dying last year of overdoses — around 64,000 — as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined. In contrast, Portugal may be winning the war on drugs — by ending it. Today, the Health Ministry estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal’s drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe — one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark — and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.

‘No more agriculture in Puerto Rico,’ a farmer laments

The Seattle Times | Posted on September 27, 2017

Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry. Entire plantations, dairy barns and industrial chicken coops are gone. Hurricane Maria made landfall here Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Its force and fury stripped every tree of not just the leaves, but also the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought. Rows and rows of fields were denuded. Plants simply blew away.In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the island’s agriculture industry, said Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of the Department of Agriculture.Across the island, Maria’s prolonged barrage took out entire plantations and destroyed dairy barns and industrial chicken coops. Plantain, banana and coffee crops were the hardest hit, Flores said. Landslides in the mountainous interior of the island took out many roads, a major part of the agriculture infrastructure there.