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Rural News

Modern small scale farming- could it sustain us?

Strong Towns | Posted on August 15, 2017

Could any of our communities actually survive on local food alone? Could we ever get to a point where local food makes up most of our diets and where local farmers are successfully supplying that? The more I study this, the more I realize it would be pretty darn tough, if not impossible. But, being an apartment dweller who hasn't had the opportunity to spend much time on farms, I wanted to talk to some real farmers to find out if this rang true from their perspective. Were they supporting themselves with their farm income? Could their harvest (and the harvests of their neighboring farmers) feed a community? I interviewed six farmers from around the country (as well as two people who serve in roles supporting local farmers) in both urban and rural settings, growing both produce and animals. All of them opened their farms in the last twenty years and most started in the last ten years. Between the high start-up costs, physical labor required, a regulatory environment geared for corporate farms and the public’s expectations about how much food should cost, it’s very hard to make it as a small-scale farmer. This was clear in my conversations with farmers and it bears out in the statistics as well. Mark and Kena Guttridge opened their family farm, Ollin Farms, in Longmont, CO, just over a decade ago. They spoke honestly about the economic challenges of their profession, even ten years after getting started: Kena: We do have other jobs because economically we cannot survive with the farm. It sounds beautiful and amazing but if we do just that, the farm would probably close.

CA: Cap-and-trade extension included fire fee repeal

Capital Press | Posted on August 10, 2017

The bill to extend California’s cap-and-trade program through 2030, which was signed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown, included the repeal of a controversial fee charged to rural landowners for fire protection.

Broadband economic benefits: why invest in broadband infrastructure?

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 10, 2017

The long-term economic benefits of providing broadband access to every rural community exceed the cost of building that infrastructure. And it isn’t even close. A 2017 study by Ohio State University Swank Program on Rural-Urban Policy estimated the economic benefits of providing broadband access to unserved households in Ohio. To calculate these estimates, the Ohio State study used customer surplus– what a consumer is willing to pay for a service compared to what they are actually paying. In other words, consumer surplus is the average amount of value a consumer receives from Internet service above and beyond the price. In non-metropolitan counties, about 6.2 million households (35.4 percent) lack access to 25/3 fixed broadband. These rural residents are missing out on $11.6 billion per year in economic benefits or $113 billion over fifteen years assuming full coverage and adoption.On the other hand, the most conservative of scenarios, which assumes full access but only 20 percent adoption, would generate an impact of $4.5 billion per year or $43.8 billion over fifteen years in the U.S. In non-metropolitan counties, this same scenario would yield $2.3 billion annually or $22.7 billion over fifteen years.

SNAP plays outsized role in the economy of rural grocery stores

Daily Yonder | Posted on August 10, 2017

As a new report shows that rural households are about 25% more likely than urban ones to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), rural grocers say the federal nutrition program is an important part of the revenue that keeps their stores in business. “The way I see it, SNAP is one of the best government programs out there,” said Kip Yoss, who owns and operates two independent grocery stores in rural West Missouri. “It really helps us pay our utilities, our workers, and keep the doors open.” Yoss said his stores earn about 11% of sales from SNAP, which provides a cash-like benefit to low-income Americans that can be spent only on food items. Other stores Yoss works with in harder-hit rural areas earn as much as 20-30% of their revenue from SNAP, he said. SNAP accounts for 9% of grocery sales nationally, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Sixteen percent of nonmetropolitan households used SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps), according to a new study from the Food Research & Action Center using American Community Survey data for 2011-15. The metropolitan rate was 3 points lower, at 13%. (If you’re interested in seeing SNAP usage in your county, the report includes an interactive map as well as state-by-state information.)

Outdoor Recreation Now the Largest Sector of Montana’s Economy

Wild Montana | Posted on August 9, 2017

Governor Bullock's Office of Outdoor Recreation now makes more sense than ever, as does taking good care of our public lands.

Rural families rely more on food stamps than those in metro areas

New York Daily News | Posted on August 8, 2017

Rural Americans are increasingly reliant on food stamps to make ends meet each month — and their usage outstrips that of urban residents, a new study found. Nationally, food stamp participation is highest overall among households in rural areas (16%) and small towns (16%) compared to metro counties (13%).In 23% of rural counties, at least 20% of households participate in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, meaning they get monthly food stamps to help them purchase certain types of food.

Assemblymen reach across aisle for agriculture

Lodi News | Posted on August 8, 2017

On paper, Assemblymen Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove representing California’s 9th District and Heath Flora, a Republican from Ripon representing the 12th District should be political adversaries. Despite their opposing party affiliations, the two found common ground in both their history as public safety employees and their commitment to advocating for California’s agriculture industry.Cooper, a second-term assemblyman, served in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for 30 years, reaching the rank of Captain, and spent 14 years as Elk Grove’s founding mayor and councilman before joining the Assembly in 2014.Flora, who is in his first term, is a small business owner from a farming family, served as a volunteer firefighter for 15 years in Ripon, where he lives to this day, before joining the assembly in 2016 with Cooper’s endorsement.“I met Heath and thought he was a good fit. His family is in farming, and he was a firefighter, so we have that bond from our histories working in public safety, where you get used to working with other folks. All that matters to cops and firefighters is getting the job done, (political) parties and race don’t matter” said Cooper.In addition to Cooper’s law enforcement background, Flora was impressed by the Elk Grove Democrat’s dedication to learning as much as possible about agriculture.“Jim didn’t know anything about agriculture when he first started, but nobody else in the Assembly educated themselves like he did. We want to take his model and educate other Democrats as well,” said Flora.The two were quick to work across party lines to represent the Central Valley’s needs, including water conservation and agriculture, which Cooper says are different from the rest of California.

Amid farm-to-table movement, Colorado agriculture attempts to shape perceptions of farming

Denver Post | Posted on August 8, 2017

Younger generations want to know where their food comes from, but communicating that information might be harder than it seems. Younger generations are leading the charge on demanding locally sourced food. They’re starting farm-to-table restaurants, making farmers markets trendy and paying a premium for locally sourced food. But getting the most accurate message out to consumers about where their food comes from and how it is grown is easier said than done.As part of Colorado Proud month – as proclaimed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and celebrated with a campaign theme each year – partners in Colorado’s agricultural industry will tour the state this month to show the faces of agriculture. The Colorado Proud program provides a guarantee to consumers that their food was grown, raised or processed in the state. The program started in 1999, but its purple-and-yellow mountain symbol is becoming more powerful. This year’s Colorado Proud survey results suggested that consumers want to “feel more connected” to farmers and food sources.

Regional planning across Louisiana will look at reducing future flooding

The Advocate | Posted on August 6, 2017

Hundreds of millions of dollars are set to flow to three regions in Louisiana devastated by flooding in 2016, with an emphasis on establishing coordinated, regional planning to mitigate future flood events. Gov. John Bel Edwards joined scores of local, state and federal representatives at University of Louisiana at Lafayette Thursday to detail the initiative aimed at providing multi-parish coordination to address the historic flooding that swamped parts of metro Baton Rouge and Lafayette in August 2016 and northeast Louisiana the previous March, damaging or destroying an estimated 113,000 homes and leaving tens of thousands languishing in shelters.“There’s nobody out there who’s going to do a retention project or detention project big enough to keep all the water, so it’s going to go somewhere — it’s going to go off to the neighbors,” Edwards told the group of elected officials, scientists, engineers and emergency management professionals gathered at Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise. “So why not have the neighbors sitting down all at one time to come up with one comprehensive strategy to manage the watershed?”The state, Edwards explained, is dispersing the money to local parishes, but will emphasize regional planning that deals with the three watersheds most affected by the 2016 floods — the Amite watershed in metro Baton Rouge, the Vermilion in the Acadiana region and the Ouachita in northeast Louisiana.

Dispelling GMO myths with Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye | Posted on August 6, 2017

Rosanne Rust, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author from Northwest, Pennsylvania, had this to say about the definition of GMOs. “GMOs come from modifying the genes of a plant or animal by inserting one targeted gene that possesses a desired trait into the other organism.” She added, “This highly specific process can help an organism stay healthy by preventing disease or malformation, or it may enhance the organism’s positive traits.” Some say that the debate still lingers on, but for many, the debate is over when people are dealing with the facts and not belief systems. Much of the scientific community seems to agree that GMOs in and of themselves are not harmful and may even be beneficial to the economy and the environment, as well as having long term effects that will help the world.