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Rural News

Drowned Hopes:Disaster strikes the family farm

Texas Farm Bureau | Posted on September 7, 2017

This year was going to be different. The cotton looked good. Unbelievably good. Fat bolls loaded on compact stalks. A sea of white, as far as the eye could see. Matagorda County farmer Robby Reed was hopeful. Until a bad boy named Harvey paid a visit.Some say it’s the hurricane for the decades. For Robby, it’s the storm of a lifetime.He’s 39 years old—a young farmer by most standards. He’s suffered through hard times, but 2017 may be his toughest year yet.More than 20 inches of rain has fallen, and the family farm is completely underwater.Half of Robby’s cotton is still in the fields. Or was. Drenched in the downpours, the cotton absorbed water like a sponge. Some fell off the stalks. Some floated away.He drove by his fields yesterday. Bad news. The potential of a bumper crop swept away after years of low prices.The evenings now are somber. Robby, his wife and son were forced out by rising waters. For the first time ever, water crept into their home.But he wasn’t alone. His parents were in trouble, too. Robby hopped on a jet ski and picked them up before dawn on Monday. Floodwaters breached the levee at their farm near Bay City. Bob and Debbie Reed had been there 40 years and never had water in their barn. Until two days ago. A foot surged through it. And the worse could be yet to come.For Debbie, it’s not the house or the barn that matter. “It’s just stuff,” she said.Seeing her son and other young farmers suffer extreme losses, though, is more than she can bear.“The hardest part is watching my son and daughter-in-law go through this,” she told me, voice cracking with emotion. “As a mom, you hurt for them more than you ever hurt for yourself.”She and Bob have weathered their fair share of storms. They will do so again.This time, they’re a little older. A lot wiser. And maybe just a little crazy—crazy for working long hours, hedging their bets and racing the weather without guarantees.Farming is what they know. It’s what they love. It’s in their blood—a family tradition.But Robby is looking at extreme loss—hundreds of thousands of dollars. A gamble he took on farming. With Mother Nature calling the shots. And her aim was deadly.

Where Race, Poverty, and the Opportunity Gap Meet in Rural America

Roll Call | Posted on September 7, 2017

There are 27 prisons within a 100-mile radius of Bertie County, North Carolina. Its last major employer is the Perdue chicken processing plant. It is a place of dirt roads, muddy tracks, trailer homes, sweltering heat, rows of cotton, and very little opportunity for ambitious youngsters. It’s here that we meet three African-American boys in their teens trying to find their place in a world with odds stacked high against them — overburdened schools with few resources, mass incarceration, and a lack of decent jobs. All three boys are the subject of a new documentary “Raising Bertie,” which follows their lives for six years while examining questions of race, generational poverty and the opportunity gap that exists in rural America.There’s Reginald “Junior” Askew who, when we first meet him, cheekily says he thought of selling drugs to make money, but realized he doesn’t have the aptitude for it. There’s David “Bud” Perry, whose mom describes his birth as a blessing because he was “born real fat and light-skinned.” And then there’s Davonte “Dada” Harrell, who we follow as he struggles to come to grips with the dissolution of his parents’ relationship and how to express to his father what he expects in a dad.The documentary, directed by Margaret Byrne, who came to Bertie in 2009 with the intention of shooting another project, recently screened at U Street’s Public Welfare Foundation as part of the March on Washington Film Festival.

Student transforms cow manure into household furniture | Posted on September 6, 2017

A university student has gone from stool to stools after transforming cow manure into a range of designer household furniture. Sanelisiwe Mafa, a Product Design Student at Birmingham City University, came up with the innovative idea in a bid to create useful items from the .After researching how  could be used as a sustainable resource she put her ideas into practice and transformed the manure into a material which could be shaped, moulded and styled into different items of furniture.She experimented with the substance before finding a method which allowed the manure to be manipulated into a range of shapes and sizes while retaining the detail of the material.The manure has been used to produce a range of stools and designer flower pots, mounted on wood stands, which are also fully recyclable.


Berlin has been invaded ... by Louisiana swamp crayfish

International Business Times | Posted on September 6, 2017

Berlin's huge Tiergarten park is crawling with a species of crayfish native to America's Deep South. The Louisiana crayfish – also known as the red swamp crawfish – can be found swimming in the park's ponds and scuttling across its paths. Juergen Goette, responsible for the park's upkeep, said the invasive crustacean could have disastrous effects. "The crayfish is an omnivore. It feeds on practically everything that it finds, such as plants, fish spawn and frog spawn from native frogs. This could wipe out entire native species," Goette said."In addition to this, they also carry the so-called 'Crayfish Plague', which is a fungal disease against which they are immune, but can infect and kill any native crayfish that may be present." This is a good gesture, but more must be done, say the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Germany (NABU). Katrin Koch, a NABU nature protection officer, believes that they have acted too late and a more permanent solution to prevent spreading should be found. She speculated the crayfish are likely to have arrived in the lakes after private owners improperly tried to dispose of them. She appealed to owners to act responsibly and not simply discard any kind of animal in the wild. "You always have to appeal to people to keep pets responsibly and not to simply discard them somewhere. This applies to mammals such as dogs and cats, which cannot just be dumped somewhere. This is just as true for aquatic animals: fish, turtles and also for these swamp crayfish," she said. "We are a bit surprised about what gets released into the wilderness from the aquarium trade."

AVMA helping veterinarians take on telemedicine By Katie Burns

AVMA | Posted on September 5, 2017

The AVMA is providing guidance and soon a toolkit to help veterinarians take on telemedicine in practice. On July 21 at its regular annual session in Indianapolis, the AVMA House of Delegates passed a policy on telemedicine and accompanying revisions to the Model Veterinary Practice Act, which is a model for state practice acts.Dr. Lori Teller, District VIII representative on the AVMA Board of Directors, said ahead of the regular annual session of the House that the AVMA has spent more than two years thoughtfully and thoroughly considering the potential impacts of telemedicine on the public and the profession. She updated HOD members on the Association's activities in the area of telemedicine.In 2016, the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel completed a comprehensive report on telemedicine. In 2017, the Association solicited feedback on the report from members, stakeholders, and the general public. The "Policy on Telemedicine" draws on the report and the feedback."Telemedicine is a tool that may be utilized to augment the practice of veterinary medicine," according to the policy. "The AVMA is committed to ensuring access to the convenience and benefits afforded by telemedicine, while promoting the responsible provision of high quality veterinary medical care." Per the policy, "Given the current state of technological capabilities, available research, and the current state and federal regulatory landscape, the AVMA believes that veterinary telemedicine should only be conducted within an existing Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR), with the exception for advice given in an emergency until that patient can be seen by a veterinarian."

Corps Of Engineers Takes Proactive Approach To Stop Asian Carp In Mississippi River

Wisconsin Public Radio | Posted on September 5, 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is updating procedures at a lock and dam on the upper Mississippi River to stop the spread of Asian carp. Previous methods for operating spillway gates at Lock and Dam 8 in Genoa created variations in the flow of water through the dam, allowing the invasive species to swim through places with a slower current.Nan Bischoff, project manager for USACE's St. Paul district, said researchers from the University of Minnesota helped USACE identify these imbalances and adjust the way they use the gates."By rebalancing how we are passing flows, we do eliminate those areas where the Asian carp can get through," Bischoff said.So far, Asian carp have taken over the Mississippi River through parts of Iowa, about 100 miles south of Lock and Dam 8.

A Texas Farmer on Harvey, Bad Planning and Runaway Growth

The New York Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

A century’s worth of unchecked growth, he’ll tell you, has brought prosperity to many. But it also has altered the landscape in ways that have made both the droughts and the floods more destructive and made that prosperity fleeting. Much of the region sits atop the overtaxed Gulf Coast Aquifer, and though efforts have made over the last 40 years to limit withdrawals from it, enough water has been sucked out of it that the ground still subsides in some places, altering runoff patterns and allowing flood waters to gather. What’s more, those more than 2 million newcomers to the region are living in houses and driving on roads and shopping in stores built atop what once was prairie that could have absorbed at least some of the fury of this flood and the next. What once was land that might have softened the storm’s blow is now, in many cases, collateral damage in what could turn out to be a $40 billion disaster.It will take months before the full weight of Hurricane Harvey’s ruinous rampage along the Gulf is realized, and it will be years before a full recovery. And in the space between those two points, my friend would tell you, there might just be a moment to consider how best to rebuild, to pause and rethink how and where we build, to reflect not just on whether we’re altering the weather, but whether there is a way to make ourselves less vulnerable to it. Perhaps we could build differently, or set aside land that would both help recharge the dwindling water supplies in times of drought and slow the floods when they come.

As Houston Looks to Recover, Small Towns Now Bear the Brunt

The New York Times | Posted on August 31, 2017

For the streets of Newton, a small town on the Texas side of the Louisiana state line, to become impassable, “the flood would have to be biblical,” Kristen Rogers was told when she peeked into the sheriff’s office looking for guidance. “That’s what they said about Houston,” replied Ms. Rogers, who was looking for a dry way out of rural Texas on her way to Florida.But as Houston, the urban behemoth that has so far been the focal point in the unfolding drama of Hurricane Harvey, began gingerly to assess the devastation, the storm marched on to conquer a vast new swath speckled with small towns that are home to millions of people who were shocked anew by Harvey’s tenaciously destructive power. Officials faced a population in dire need, but far more difficult to reach.Flooding and rain, topping 47 inches in some areas, pounded 50 counties in southeast and lower central Texas with a combined population of roughly 11 million people. The area includes more than 300 towns and smaller cities that felt the storm’s punishing force, even as Harvey was downgraded to a tropical depression on Wednesday. In contrast to Houston, where the weather began to clear and a few children even returned to playgrounds, many people in these remote areas are still in desperate need of rescue. “There are a lot of places that are not accessible by car or truck or boat, and we need to get to the survivors to get them critical aid,” said Deanna Fraser, a FEMA spokeswoman.

Farmers, experts: solar and agriculture ‘complementary, not competing’ in North Carolina

Southeast Energy News | Posted on August 31, 2017

On a 120-acre farm in Biscoe, North Carolina, near the edge of the Uwharrie National Forest, a flock of hair sheep takes shelter from the summer sun beneath a row of solar panels.  They provide a valuable service to O2 emc – the Cornelius-based company that owns this solar installation – by preventing weeds that could block sunlight and decrease the panels’ efficiency.“What we’re trying to do is put agriculture and solar right next to each other,” says Brock Phillips of Sun-Raised Farms, who owns and manages the sheep. “It can be quite symbiotic if implemented correctly.” Building on an April analysis from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and the state’s agricultural agency, the latest study finds that less than a third of 1 percent of North Carolina’s 4.75 million acres of cropland now houses solar panels – belying criticisms that large-scale solar arrays are threatening the state’s traditional farms. With a new law adopted this summer expected to more than double the state’s solar capacity – mostly in the form of utility-scale installations – the numbers will undoubtedly increase.

Deer feeding ban expands into northern Minnesota

Duluth News Tribune | Posted on August 31, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Monday it is expanding its total ban on deer feeding into 11 new counties as a precaution against the spread of chronic wasting disease.The ban on feeding deer started Monday and will last through February 2019.