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Rural News

Health Insurance Premiums Are Stabilizing

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 22, 2018

Despite Republican efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, insurance premiums will go up only slightly in most states where carriers have submitted proposed prices for next year. And insurance carriers are entering markets rather than fleeing them. The improvements stem from less political uncertainty over health policy, steeper than necessary increases this year, better understanding of the markets, improvements in care and a host of actions taken by individual states.Average proposed premiums for all levels of plans in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania will increase less than 9 percent in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.By contrast, this year’s mid-priced plans increased an average of 37 percent nationally compared to 2017.In some states, 2019 premiums are projected to decrease.

A new analysis of New England's shrimp population doesn't bode well for the future of the long-shuttered fishery for the crustaceans

Columbian | Posted on August 22, 2018

A new analysis of New England’s shrimp population doesn’t bode well for the future of the long-shuttered fishery for the crustaceans. The Maine-based shrimp fishery has been shut down since 2013 because of concerns such as warming ocean temperatures and poor survival of young. Scientists working with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission are assessing the shrimp stock, and so far it looks like little has changed. Results of the stock assessment “look fairly similar to what we’ve seen in previous years,” said Megan Ware, a fishery management plan coordinator with the Atlantic States. That means reopening the fishery any time soon could be a tough sell when regulators meet to discuss and vote on the subject this fall. The shrimp were a popular winter seafood item in New England and around the country before regulators shuttered the fishery. Fishermen sought them with trawler boats and traps in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, sometimes catching more than 10 million pounds in a single year.

Revised Law Frees Police in Illinois to Rescue Suffering Cats and Dogs

Chicago Tonight | Posted on August 22, 2018

A previously unaddressed provision of Illinois’ animal care law has caused police officers to hesitate before taking steps to rescue suffering dogs or cats, but a bill signed into law last week should change that, experts say. The bill, which took effect Aug. 7, revises the state’s Humane Care for Animals Act to clarify the right of law enforcement to take custody of abandoned or lost dogs or cats that appear to be suffering from exposure to extreme heat, cold or another life-threatening condition.Although the law’s previous version gave police that right, it also required officers to take the animal immediately to an emergency veterinarian and obtain a diagnosis justifying the officer’s decision to take custody.

Fierce and Unpredictable: How Wildfires Became Infernos

The New York Times | Posted on August 22, 2018

In the wild, these fire whirls are unpredictable and dangerous. An exceptionally powerful whirl in late July during California’s unrelenting Carr Fire whipped winds up to 143 miles per hour, roaring and spinning for 90 minutes and scooping up ash, debris and flames. It uprooted trees, stripped the bark off them, and downed power lines. The whirl, sometimes nicknamed a “firenado,” was so large it was picked up on Doppler radar. At the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, Dr. Finney and other researchers are recreating and studying whirls, as well as the paths that out-of-control blazes cut through millions of acres of forests and grassland in the West. The scientists are racing to develop a deeper understanding of the combined effects of a warmer climate, massive tree die-offs that feed the wildfires, and developments encroaching into the wilderness.

New Tool For Farmland Seekers

Growing Produce | Posted on August 22, 2018

Beginning farmers have a powerful new tool in their digital toolbox. The Finding Farmland Calculator, developed by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and Fathom Information Design, brings together innovative design and practical resources to help farmers overcome two top obstacles to starting a farm — access to land and capital.A decision-making tool designed specifically for farmers seeking land, the Finding Farmland Calculator makes it easy for farmers to understand and compare farm financing options, determine what they can afford, and prepare to work with a loan officer. The calculator was created in consultation with young farmers and farm service providers, such as Farm Credit, to fill a specific need: giving farmers free and easy access to information that will help them find affordable farm financing and successfully pay it back.

What Documentation Should I Have for Hunters on My Property?

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on August 22, 2018

Hunting Lease.  All landowners should require a hunting lease be signed by anyone coming onto the property. Liability Waiver.  I always recommend that hunters or other recreational guests on the property sign a waiver of liability.Texas Agritourism Act Waiver.  The Texas Agritourism Act is a relatively new statute, passed in 2015, which provides that agritourism entities are not liable for injuries to persons engaged in a recreational or educational activity on the property, so long as a sign is posted or specific  release language is signed.

Midwest's legislators adopt resolution calling for greater mental-health supports for people living in rural areas

CSG Midwest | Posted on August 16, 2018

Myriad signs point to the need for better connecting farmers to services that help them deal with stress, depression and other mental health challenges. First, there is the history of the problem: In a study examining various industries between 1992 and 2010, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that farm operators and workers had the highest suicide rate. Second, many rural U.S. communities struggle with shortages of mental health professionals: 65 percent don’t have a psychiatrist and 47 percent lack a psychologist, according to a 2018 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Third, many of today’s agricultural producers are dealing with high levels of stress, due to factors such as low commodity prices and decreased farm incomes.“The volatility we have seen recently is unprecedented,” North Dakota Rep. Michael Brandenburg says. The burdens can prove overwhelming for some, he says, noting that one of his neighbors committed suicide when faced with the financial collapse of a farm operation.The 1980s are often cited as a time of failing agricultural businesses and related stresses, but today’s suicide rates for male farmers are 50 percent higher than they were during that tumultuous decade. “Now is the time to start addressing rural suicide and mental health issues,” Illinois Rep. Norine Hammond says.That is why she and other legislators pushed in July for passage of a resolution urging adoption of the federal FARMERS FIRST Act.

Michigan OKs measures to stop chronic wasting disease in deer

Detroit News | Posted on August 16, 2018

The Department of Natural Resources will be doing heavy surveillance of deer and other animals in an attempt to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease in southwest Michigan. The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved new deer hunting regulations Thursday aimed at halting the spread of the fatal neurological disease among deer that threatens the $2.3 billion hunting industry.Chronic wasting disease affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. More than 31,000 deer in Michigan have been tested for the disease, which has been confirmed in 60 free-ranging deer in Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties since May 2015.

Where even Walmart won't go: how Dollar General took over rural America

The Guardian | Posted on August 16, 2018

As the chain opens stores at the rate of three a day across the US, often in the heart of ‘food deserts’, some see Dollar General as an admission that a town is failing. When Dollar General came to Haven, Kansas, it arrived making demands. The fastest-growing retailer in America wanted the taxpayers of the small, struggling Kansas town to pick up part of the tab for building one of its squat, barebones stores that more often resemble a warehouse than a neighbourhood shop. Dollar General thought Haven’s council should give the company a $72,000 break on its utility bills, equivalent to the cost of running the town’s library and swimming pool for a year, on the promise of jobs and tax revenues. The council blanched but ended up offering half of that amount to bring the low-price outlet to a town that already had a grocery store. The Dollar General opened in Haven at the end of February 2015. Three years later, the company applied to build a similar store in the neighbouring town of Buhler, a 20-minute drive along a ramrod straight road north through sprawling Kansas farmland.Buhler’s mayor, Daniel Friesen, watched events unfold in Haven and came to see Dollar General not so much as an opportunity as a diagnosis.Friesen understood why dying towns with no shops beyond the convenience store at the gas station welcomed Dollar General out of desperation for anything at all, like Burton, just up the road, where the last food shop closed 20 years ago. But Buhler had a high street with grocery and hardware stores, a busy cafe and a clothes shop. It had life.As Friesen saw it, Dollar General was not only a threat to all that but amounted to admission his town was failing. “It was about retaining the soul of the community. It was about, what kind of town do we want?” he said.

Rural America Faces A Crisis In 'Adequate Housing'

NPR | Posted on August 16, 2018

Economists say this phenomenon of "aging in place" is one of the main factors driving a shortage in housing nationwide. According to one analysis, people are living in their homes twice as long as they did before the Great Recession. Small towns like Ogallala are no exception to this trend. Ogallala's residents tend to skew older. And the town's remoteness and distance from a major power center like Omaha or Denver mean its problems with housing could be even harder to solve.This is the classic "chicken and egg" that has long plagued rural America, but the problem is being magnified now by the housing shortage. Nationally, housing economists lay blame on a number of things, including the high price of lumber due to new tariffs on Canadian wood. There's also a labor shortage — after the 2008 housing collapse, construction workers left the trades in droves.