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Rural News

Commodity prices decline, farmer suicides rise

Feedstuffs | Posted on June 28, 2018

Ag suicides are the greatest unreported tragedy of its kind in America and around the world. If veteran suicide in America is epidemic, ag suicide is pandemic. Here's the hard data: Suicides among a group labeled Farming/Fishing/Forestry totaled 84.5 per hundred thousand. Far behind in second place was Construction/Extraction at 53.3 per hundred thousand. A few weeks ago, Washington state legislators unanimously passed House Bill 2671 which establishes a pilot program for free suicide prevention for employees of the agriculture industry. It seems to be similar to a proposed nationwide program called the Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) program that you’ve suggested in the past. Is that state on the leading edge? Should other states consider something similar?A. Yes, the Washington state initiative is modeled after the Sowing the Seeds of Hope project and FRSAN. Minnesota has already implemented a farm crisis hotline that does well-attended community farmer meetings, and visits to farms by trained counselors/business consultants, all funded through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. I've heard that Illinois and Colorado are considering something similar.(Rosmann sent this statement taken from a paper he wrote last year). The Nebraska Rural Response Helpline (1-800-464-0258) is a laudatory example of both governmental and private underwriting of the operation of a particularly useful behavioral health program for farmers and all rural residents of Nebraska. The Helpline depends on an annual state-wide non-tithe church collection, grants from private organizations, and on the Nebraska legislature to cover its costs.All these entities pitch in to support the operation of the statewide telephone and website to offer crisis assistance to Nebraska’s farm and rural populations, along with redeemable vouchers to obtain one or more counseling sessions from professionals who are familiar with agriculture. 

House Proposes Cuts to School Safety, Behavioral Health, Security for Lawmakers Exceeds That For Schools

Roll Call | Posted on June 28, 2018

The House is proposing to cut funding for school safety programs, even as Congress continually increases spending on its own security. Some lawmakers and education advocates question the logic of this amid a nationwide conversation on school security, gun violence and self-harm. The House’s draft fiscal 2019 spending bill to fund the Education and Health and Human Services departments proposes about $110 million in reductions to programs meant to improve school safety and steer behavioral health services toward students.  Compared to a decade ago, programs meant to foster safe school environments have dwindled dramatically. In 2007, federal funding for school safety programs exceeded $600 million. Today, it’s around $400 million, if you include a wide array of broader violent crime reduction grants for local police forces. In comparison, spending on security services for lawmakers is going in the other direction. The Capitol Police budget would exceed $450 million in fiscal 2019 under the House’s Legislative Branch bill, compared to $393 million in fiscal 2017. 


House approves massive bill to fight opioid addiction

Washington Examiner | Posted on June 28, 2018

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation Friday that would give several federal agencies more tools to fight opioid addiction and death in the U.S., and open the door to more treatment and prevention for the public. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act passed in an easy 396-14 vote following months of hearings and debate. The legislation helps to direct some of the $4 billion in funding for the crisis that Congress approved as part of a long-term spending deal this year. The sweeping bill contains provisions to improve access to addiction treatment, block illegal drugs such as fentanyl from entering the U.S., clear the way for more research on nonaddictive medications to treat pain and reduce the number painkiller prescriptions. It also places new regulations on the ways Medicare and Medicaid are involved in both treatment of pain and addiction. For example, the bill instructs federal offices to evaluate the use of telehealth in addiction treatment under Medicare, and requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue guidance on how to treat infants who were exposed to opioids while in the womb and developed a dependency on the drug.

Rural Mainstreet Index at Highest Level in Almost 5 Years

| Posted on June 21, 2018

For a fourth straight month the overall index rose above growth neutral. On average, bankers expect farm loan defaultsto rise by only 3.0 percent over the next 12 months. • Over the past year, average annual cash rents on farmland declined by 3.0 percent to $239 per acre. More than one-third of bank CEOs identified rising regulatory costs as the top economic challenge to their banking operations over the next five years. The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index climbed above growth neutral in May for a fourth straight month, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy. This is the first time since the July 2015 that we have recorded four straight months of overall indices above growth neutral. bank CEOs identified rising regulatory costs as the top economic challenge to their banking operations over the next five years. Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for May declined to 42.2 from April’s 42.9. This is the 54th straight month the index has fallen below growth neutral 50.0.

Investing in Rural America

Joint Economic Committee | Posted on June 21, 2018

Senate and House Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday released a report, "Investing in Rural America," on the needs of rural America and promised to push congress to invest more in rural areas.In a call to reporters, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, "Many rural communities are still recovering from the Great Recession, more than 10 years after it hit us. Millions of rural residents lack reliable access to broadband. The rural population is aging and shrinking, and wages have been stuck for too long. But rather than run from these challenges, we need to tackle them head on."Heinrich said rural communities are leading the way in renewable energy production, outdoor recreation opportunities and boast some of the smallest class sizes and highest levels of parent engagement in K-12 education.But he said there needs to be more investment in infrastructure, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges and increased access to early learning and post-secondary school options."But to turn ideas into action and to improve the lives of the 46 million Americans who live in rural communities, we will need bipartisan efforts," Heinrich said. "I hope this report can serve as a spark, to attract folks on both sides of the aisle to invest in rural communities."

What the U.S. Could Learn from Australia about Financing Infrastructure

University of Pennsylvania | Posted on June 21, 2018

As an Australian, I’ve have been resisting the temptation these past few months to react to the Trump Administration’s big infrastructure plans with “The U.S. could learn a lot from my country.” The international comparison gambit rarely works well in America, and I don’t want to appear too parochial. But I have learned a lot from the Australian example, and I think now is the time to share, as the Trump Administration pursues a plan of federal infrastructure investment intended to stimulate state, local and private investments. These events reinforced the three core truths about infrastructure:Building first-rate infrastructure — roads, bridges, ports, high-speed rail, airports, power grids, cell phone networks and fiber optic cables — is essential to realizing the full potential of all economies.The sheer scale of the global infrastructure challenge is so enormous that the only possible way to meet it is to find a much bigger role for the private sector.Savvy governments can ensure that increasing the role of the private sector in infrastructure furthers their mission of serving the broad needs of society.

USDA Launches Interactive Map of Opioid Epidemic Resources

USDA | Posted on June 20, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive feature on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural opioid misuse webpage. Now webpage visitors can use an interactive map to learn about, access or replicate actions rural leaders are taking in small towns across the country to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery opportunities. The interactive map can be viewed at

Florida lawmakers wrongly diverted money meant for conservation, judge rules

Orlando Sentinel | Posted on June 20, 2018

State lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands, a judge ruled. Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with environmental groups in the lawsuit centered on whether lawmakers defied the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative by improperly diverting portions of the money to such expenses as staffing. Legislative leaders have repeatedly disputed such allegations as they continued to make such budget allocations. Attorney David Guest — representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller — called Dodson’s Friday bench ruling a “100 percent victory.” “The people of Florida voted with a firm, clear voice. And the court said today that counts,” Guest said after the hearing. “The Legislature has to comply with the law like everybody else.”

Nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045

The Acadiana Advocate | Posted on June 20, 2018

By 2045, nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic disruptive flooding caused by sea level rise.   The report says nearly 99,000 people could be affected by floods that would happen 26 times a year or more. The value of the homes affected by the flooding is pegged at nearly $4.3 billion, contributing $36 million in property taxes. Louisiana faces an additional problem: the number of poor people who live in homes at risk of flooding. The report notes that in Houma and Bayou Cane, where chronic flooding could wipe out up to 25 percent of the property tax base, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 residents live in poverty. More than 10,000 homes out of nearly 36,000 in Terrebonne Parish could be affected. “Renters too might find themselves in a tight market or having to put up with decaying buildings and increased nuisance flooding,” Cleetus said. “Hits to the property tax base in low-income communities, which already experience significant under-investment in critical services and infrastructure, could prove especially challenging.”

As Rural Towns Lose Population, They Can Learn To 'Shrink Smart'

NPR | Posted on June 20, 2018

Population loss like Sheffield's is happening in small towns across the U.S. "The big picture for all rural communities that don't have a connection to a growing metro area is that they are going to get smaller over time," says Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University. Zarecor argues that towns like Sheffield shouldn't spend money trying to lure new residents to shore up their population numbers. She says instead, they should focus on making life better for the residents they still have. In fact, she's devoting a lot of her energy to the cause she calls "The Shrink Smart Project." Peters says they're conducting surveys to figure out how some remote small towns are already making residents' life better, even as their populations drain away. He says there are some standouts — such as Sac City, Iowa, whose population is estimated at 2,105 and falling. The numbers are down by a third since a farm equipment manufacturer closed its factory there in the 1980s.