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Rural News

Coal mine expansion could swallow family farms in southern Illinois

Energy News | Posted on March 22, 2018

Foresight Energy subsidiary is making claims on a four-decade-old contract between landowners and a government utility. Members of theEwing Northern Coal Association — local farmers who under the 1976 agreement promised to sell their coal mineral rights to the TVA. Farmers got about $1,000 for each coal-containing acre, with many owning 100 acres or more. The agreement also stipulated that if the TVA wanted to buy the farmers’ surface land in the future, the farmers would have to sell, receiving fair market value plus 10 percent.At the time, it seemed like a great deal. One hundred thousand dollars was a huge sum in those days. And coal mining was regularly done below farmland with little impact on the surface. So Kern’s father and other farmers didn’t think they would suffer any ill impacts from mining below their farms, and they didn’t think the TVA would really have any reason to demand they sell their land in the future. Besides, it was a patriotic era and they felt good about supporting the country’s energy security.  Now Illinois operations typically use longwall mining, wherein a massive machine chews away whole seams of coal and lets the ceiling collapse behind it. This method causes widespread subsidence, wherein panels of earth sink by up to six feet, cracking the foundations and walls of houses and causing water to pool in depressions created in the land.

To Prevent Suicides and School Shootings, More States Embrace Anonymous Tip Lines

Pew | Posted on March 22, 2018

In Colorado, at least two high school students were arrested based on information sent to the state anonymous tip line and mobile app, known as Safe2Tell. “They had a list, they had weapons, they knew exactly what they wanted to do,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, whose office administers the program.  States across the country are responding to high-profile school shootings and rising teen suicide rates by creating tip lines modeled on Colorado’s. The programs aim to prevent young people from behaving dangerously, whether that means bullying, using drugs or killing someone. Coffman said that Safe2Tell has saved lives in Colorado, and that such a system could have prevented the Parkland shooting. Nikolas Cruz, the expelled student who has admitted to shooting his former classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had a long record of disturbing behavior but it didn’t provoke a sufficient response from local authorities. A tipster’s warning to an FBI hotline was never communicated to local law enforcement.

Behind a Push for New Solutions to the Complex Challenges Facing Rural America

Inside Philosphy | Posted on March 22, 2018

In places like Appalachia, the rural South, Texas, the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes region, grantmakers have backed a wide variety of projects to revitalize economies, improve healthcare, and rebuild local pride of place. “Local” is the operative word, since most of those funders are based in or near the areas they serve. With over $10 billion in assets, the Lilly Endowment is a giant among them. Unlike its peers of similar size, Lilly’s prodigious giving remains focused (for the most part) on a single state, Indiana. So it came as no surprise to see the endowment grant another $10 million this month to Indiana University at Bloomington, one of its longtime beneficiaries. What’s interesting, though, is that this grant launches a pretty unique endeavor: IU’s Center for Rural Engagement. As the name suggests, the center’s goal is to tackle rural social and economic challenges, starting in southwest central Indiana. But its wider ambition is to use its home region as a springboard “to create unique local and regional solutions to complex challenges common to rural communities everywhere,” as the center’s executive director, Bill Brown, put it. These efforts are worth watching closely. Swaths of the American heartland are in the grip of economic conditions that are akin to a depression, plagued by an absence of jobs and hope. If Lilly's support can catalyze new ways for rural communities to come to terms with a globalized economy, there will be important lessons for other funders.

Medicaid is rural America’s financial midwife

Kaiser Health Care | Posted on March 14, 2018

Brianna Foster, 23, lives minutes away from Genesis Hospital, the main source of health care and the only hospital with maternity services in southeastern Ohio’s rural Muskingum County. Proximity proved potentially lifesaving last fall when Foster, pregnant with her second child, Holden, felt contractions at 31 weeks — about seven weeks too soon. Genesis was equipped to handle the situation — giving Foster medication and an injection to stave off delivery. After his birth four weeks later – still about a month early, at 5 pounds 12 ounces — Holden was sent to the hospital’s special care nursery for monitoring.  Mother and son went home after a few days. “He was pretty small — but he’s picking up weight fast,” said Foster of Holden, now almost 4 months old. Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people — including Foster, who most recently worked as a preschool teacher’s aide — is responsible for much of her good fortune. Started in 1965, the program today is part of the financial bedrock of rural hospitals like Genesis. As treatments have become increasingly sophisticated — and expensive — health care has become inextricably linked to Medicaid in rural areas, which are often home to lower-income and more medically needy people.

Rural Areas Create More Businesses With Greater Staying Power

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on March 13, 2018

From the way of life to political views, the differences between rural and urban America are well-documented. But an economic development specialist from Madison who studies business trends said the entrepreneurial spirit is higher in rural Wisconsin than it is in the state's urban areas.  "I think that's not something that people always think about when they think of rural America or rural Wisconsin," said Tessa Conroy of the University of Wisconsin-Extension who has studied the issue. "These are very entrepreneurial places. They actually have more proprietors per 1,000 residents than our metro areas. It's also the case that businesses survive longer on average in rural areas." 

Minn. bill would fine those passing off untrained pets as service animals

Minnesota Public Radio | Posted on March 13, 2018

Minnesota lawmakers are considering bipartisan legislation that would criminalize taking an untrained service animal out in public.  Separate measures in the state House and Senate would make it a petty misdemeanor, punishable with a $100 fine, to pass off a pet as a trained assistance animal. Subsequent infractions would be considered misdemeanors under the bills. A growing number of states are cracking down on passing off pets as trained service animals. And high-profile incidents have brought public attention to the issue.

Why low milk prices are really bad for New York farms

Democrat and Chronicle | Posted on March 8, 2018

With the price of a gallon of milk dropping to the lowest 10 years might be good for consumers, it has meant New York farmers are making less money than they used to. And the impact is apparent: New York has 6,000 fewer dairy farms than it had it in 1989. And the number of dairy farms fell 27 percent over the last decade, records show.The situation is critical for New York's farming industry: Milk is its number one commodity, and the state is the third largest producer in the nation.“Things are pretty dire right now,” said Jerry Simonetty, managing partner of Hudson Valley Fresh Dairy in Poughkeepsie. “Every month, local dairy farmers are losing money.”State officials and farmers point to national and worldwide factors as disrupting New York's milk and dairy industry. In 2016, New York farms earned about $568 million -- about one third of what it was 2013, according the state Farm Bureau.

Mobile Telehospitals get care where it is needed the most

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 8, 2018

Two companies joined forces to put a new twist on the old idea of a MASH unit. MASH is more than the name of a long-running television sitcom. It’s a military acronym that means Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. MASH units were comprised of prefab tents, surgeons, nurses, and a truckload of medical supplies. They were designed to get experienced medical personnel closer to the frontlines so the wounded could be treated sooner and with greater success. Today, add telemedicine and community broadband support, and what you have is MAST. AMD Global Telemedicine and Jenysis Global partnered to create MAST units to help in a variety of settings: disaster recovery, medically underserved communities, military installations, and remote work environments. These self-sufficient units can handle the medical issues that arise from disasters. The units get an extra punch when they are deployed with community fiber networks and gigabit horsepower. “When we had hurricanes last year, physicians all over the world were willing to donate time and medical services,” recalls Eric Bacon, AMD President. “But how do you capitalize on their services when they don’t have physical or telephone access to the people in need? You can airdrop people and medical supplies into affected areas. However, this can create major logistical headaches for everyone involved.”The self-contained telehealth clinics, formally called Jenysis Healthcare Solutions, are delivered fully equipped with telemedicine technologies and medical equipment. The units’ completely sustainable infrastructure includes water, solar panels for power, HVAC, satellite communications and ports for broadband connections.

Minnesota settlement with 3M may fix drinking water but not the environment

Minnesota Star Tribune | Posted on March 8, 2018

For the foreseeable future, the indestructible chemicals that 3M made and dumped for years at four sites between Woodbury and Grey Cloud Island will continue to move through groundwater into streams and lakes.The $850 million court settlement between Minnesota and 3M that ended a decadelong fight over contaminated groundwater in the east metro will go a long way toward making drinking water safe for some 150,000 residents of Washington County. Already, there is hopeful talk about a new water treatment plant, hooking residents up to municipal water systems instead of private wells, and maybe even drawing water from the Mississippi or St. Croix Rivers instead of from contaminated aquifers. In short, for drinking water there are a lot of workarounds.

Wanted: Rural health care providers, but few answer the call

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 8, 2018

Several legislative committees have been examining the problem of health care provider shortages in rural North Carolina. And the answers they're getting point to complicated - and potentially expensive - answers. For years, rural hospitals, clinics and towns have been struggling to recruit physicians, and now, that lack of doctors in some of North Carolina’s more far-flung burgs is showing.“On almost any measures when you look at rural health, rural areas are doing poorer,” health economist Mark Holmes told lawmakers on the legislative Committee on Access to Rural Healthcare in North Carolina in January. She also noted the rural physician workforce is aging, with the average age for non-metropolitan physicians being 52.6 years, compared to urban doctors, who are 48.4 years old on average. Fraher and her colleagues at the Sheps Center studied four years’ worth of medical residents, from 2008-2011 and tracked their specialties and where they were practicing five years later. Their research showed that out of 2,009 physicians who graduated from North Carolina-based residency programs, fewer than half stayed in the state, and only 65 of them (3 percent) were practicing in rural areas. “This is a legislature that wants to know the return on investment, and the data show it’s really low,” Fraher said.