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.
A new study in the journal Health Affairs quantifies the trend. In 2004, 45 percent of rural counties lacked a hospital with obstetrics services. About one in 10 rural counties lost those services over the next decade, and by 2014, 54 percent of communities lacked those services. That leaves 2.4 million women of child-bearing age living in counties without hospitals that deliver babies.There are already a slew of well-known health disparities between rural women and those who live in urban settings. Women from rural areas are more likely to report having fair or poor health, be obese, smoke cigarettes, commit suicide and have cervical cancer than their urban counterparts. But the recent trend could exacerbate disparities in reproductive health, too. One recent study found that rural areas had made far fewer gains in improving infant mortality compared with the rest of the country.“A lot of discussion has been focusing on the closures of rural hospitals entirely,” said Peiyin Hung, a postdoctoral associate at Yale School of Public Health, who led the study. “We found that even among surviving hospitals in rural communities, a lot of obstetric services in these ares are disappearing.”What troubled Hung was that the most geographically isolated communities were more likely not to have had obstetrics services to begin with — and were more likely to lose them over the decade they studied. There were also patterns of inequality: rural counties that had lower median incomes and higher percentages of African American women of reproductive age were also more likely to not have hospitals with maternity wards.
I picked up two brochures and read through them. One of those showed all of the diseases that feral swine could carry. There were three categories of diseases listed: bacterial diseases, viral diseases, and parasitic diseases. All of the listed diseases can be transmitted to domestic swine, and many of those are transmittable to humans.
Graham-Cassidy will increase the number of uninsured people. Those people will continue to rely on hospitals, which will, in turn, rely on DSH funds to cover the costs of the medical care. For rural America, the impact of this policy would be especially devastating. If Graham-Cassidy passes, and the MDH and LVHA programs aren’t renewed on top of that, low-income residents depending on rural hospitals as their only means to get proper health care will doubly suffer.As Congress continues to debate the last-ditch Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the deadline to permanently renew funding for rural hospitals faced with high costs and limited resources may go unnoticed. Hundreds of qualifying rural hospitals rely on payments provided by the Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) and the Low Volume Hospital Adjustment (LVHA) programs, both of which expire on September 30. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Rural Hospital Access Act in April, which would make the programs permanent, but the bill has not yet moved through committee. Instead, Republican lawmakers are focusing their efforts on a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The measure, which has yet to receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would lead to a loss of health coverage for approximately 32 million peopleand would give states the right to remove protections against insurance companies that charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. The proposal will have a big impact on how millions of Americans receive their health insurance — and how many will be dependent on rural hospitals for their primary means of health care.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says that the Pacific Ocean equator temperatures have at least a 50% chance of cooling to La Nina values by December. Accordingly, the CPC issued a La Nina watch Sept. 14. In issuing the watch, CPC details noted an emphasis on subsurface cooling in the equator region waters of the Pacific.
Wildfires that are blackening the American West in one of the nation's worst fire seasons have ignited calls, including from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to thin forests that have become so choked with trees that they are at "powder keg levels." The destruction has exposed old frictions between environmentalists and those who want to see logging accelerated, and it's triggered a push to reassess how lands should be managed to prevent severe wildfires.Zinke's directive Tuesday for department managers and superintendents to aggressively prevent wildfires was welcomed by Ed Waldron, fire management officer at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.Waldron was exhausted after fighting two fires that have been burning since late July in or near the park, whose centerpiece is a lake that fills the remains of an erupted volcano and is the deepest in the United States. But he wondered where the additional resources would come from to hire contractors to thin the fuel.For now, Waldron and other firefighters have been too busy fighting blazes that forced the closure of a road into the park to thin vegetation elsewhere.
Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado Venture Capital Authority will allocate $9 million, and perhaps as much as $3 million more, to a rural economic development investment fund. The agencies created the new fund to benefit innovation in rural areas that might not have access to other funding sources. Industries that could benefit include value-added agriculture, advanced manufacturing, health and wellness, tourism and outdoor recreation, energy and natural resources, clean tech, technology and information.
Despite action by Congress to address the opioid addiction epidemic, hard-hit areas of the country like this one in the Midwest are finding it difficult to keep up with the fallout from the unfolding situation.In July, here in Wisconsin’s Jackson County, for instance, 34 children who were taken out of their homes, many a result of a parent’s opioid addiction, remained in foster care. Those placements resulted in a $35,000 cost for the county that month.While down from a year high of 40 in January, the epidemic has presented serious cost concerns for the local health department. The county spent over $1 million in 2015 on child welfare placements, a staggering amount for a health department with a roughly $9 million annual budget.For the growing number of teenagers entering out of home care, the cost is even higher — up to $70,000 a month to cover seven young adults.
The number of people living in rural continues to slide, according to the latest population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. People have left rural America in decades past. The big difference now is that the number of births in rural areas isn't keeping pace with the number of deaths. The population in rural America (nonmetropolitan counties) has declined for a record-breaking sixth straight year.Population growth rates in rural counties have been significantly lower than in urban (metro) counties since the mid-1990s, and the gap widened considerably in recent years. Between 2006 and 2016, annual rates of population change in rural areas fell from 0.7 percent to below zero, while urban rates fell only slightly from 1 to 0.8 percent.
Intense wildfires plaguing much of the West have rekindled controversy over logging restrictions and fire management practices that critics say have created explosive fire seasons. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, took to the floor of the Senate on Thursday to describe the toll the fires have taken.Efforts to thin dead and dying trees have been inadequate, he said as he stood next to a large photo of flames leaping from trees in the majestic Columbia River Gorge.“This is a years-long pattern in the West,” he said, calling for smarter policies and criticizing the “broken system of fighting wildfires.” He complained that federal funds earmarked for fire prevention are instead used for firefighting.