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Rural News

Trump administration steps in on fishing limits, and the implications could ripple

BostonGlobe | Posted on July 26, 2017

The Trump administration, in an unprecedented decision, has rejected the recommendation of a commission that has long overseen fishing issues along the East Coast, raising deep concerns about political meddling in the ongoing preservation of fragile stocks from Maine to Florida. More specifically, the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stirred worries about the consequences for summer flounder, one of the most fished species in the Northeast. The decline of summer flounder could have a wider impact across the region’s marine ecosystem. Ross earlier this month dismissed the findings of the 75-year-old Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which concluded that New Jersey was violating a conservation plan for summer flounder that all the other states in the compact approved. Many conservationists thought that New Jersey, while following protocols, was bowing to the fishing industry.The decision, which effectively allows New Jersey to harvest more summer flounder, marked the first time the federal government had disregarded such a recommendation by the commission, and it drew a swift rebuke from state officials along the East Coast. “The commission is deeply concerned about the near-term impact on our ability to end overfishing on the summer flounder stock as well as the longer-term ability for the commission to effectively conserve numerous other Atlantic coastal shared resources,” Douglas Grout, the commission’s chair, said in a statement.Millions of pounds of summer flounder, also known as fluke, are caught every year by commercial and recreational fishermen between Virginia Beach and Cape Cod. But the commission — an interstate pact established by Congress to manage migratory fisheries — has determined that fluke are being overfished, with an estimated population that is 42 percent below the level regulators consider to be sustainable.  The commission has reduced catch limits significantly since state and federal surveys found the fluke population had plummeted by nearly one-quarter since its 2010 peak. But if the population falls another 14 percent, reaching a critical threshold for the ability of the fishery to rebuild, commissioners will be required by their rules to reduce quotas drastically or implement a region-wide moratorium on catching fluke.

How saving this adorable mutt could put your own best friend at risk of illness

National Post | Posted on July 26, 2017

Visit any dog park in urban Canada these days and you’re bound to encounter at least one or two: rescue dogs adopted from an exotic foreign or domestic locale.It’s estimated, in fact, that tens of thousands of winsome canine refugees enter the country every year — while many others are shipped vast distances inside Canada.But the growing, humanitarian-motivated trend is inadvertently creating a major public-health headache, fuelling a rebound in the deadly rabies problem and importing other nasty diseases, public health officials warn.A federal-government journal has just documented three recent cases of stray puppies being taken from Nunavut or northern Quebec — where the deadly disease is endemic among Arctic foxes — to new homes in southern Canada, only for the owners to discover they had acquired rabid animals. Meanwhile, as dogs stream in from the Caribbean, Latin America, east Asia and the Middle East, Canada’s pet-import rules are among the loosest in the world, vets say. “There are thousands upon thousands of dogs that come into Canada every year, and it’s a completely unregulated process,” said Scott Weese, Canada research chair in zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases at the Ontario Veterinary College. “Animals aren’t supposed make it into the country if they’re sick, but we see it all the time.”

Climate change is here

The Storm Lake Times | Posted on July 21, 2017

We’ve been reading up on climate change and how it might affect agriculture and food processing. First, you should be happy to know that Iowa State University and its associated labs have taken the lead in research and reporting. Deserving special note are Drs. Gene Takle, Jerry Hatfield and Rick Cruse, who have contributed substantially to the national discussion; Takle shared in a Nobel Prize for his work on climate modeling. These are top-flight scientists, agronomists and climatologists who have issued sober analysis about climate impacts. We were going to say “potential” impacts.They are not potential. They are here.You recognize it when reading Takle’s summary of the 2014 White House Report on Climate Change and Agriculture, on which we reported at the time. But we missed this important part: Soil is carrying more moisture than before 1980. That is the first impact.The Des Moines lobe region where Storm Lake sits — that great flat expanse that grows the most corn in the world —  has witnessed a big increase in drainage capacity over the past 30 years, Takle and Cruse note. They argue that the biggest driver is the more extreme rainfalls we have witnessed in recent years. Cruse documents the more severe rains at his daily erosion website.Farmers and landowners have to get rid of that water immediately because the ground is too expensive and the stakes are too high to leave it wet. Google it and the numbers are all there: Drainage tile pays for itself and then some.There are other factors, but increased rainfall onto the Des Moines lobe’s thick glacial remains is the main contributor to increased, and more efficient, drainage.That more efficient drainage system delivers nitrate to the Raccoon River in increasing amounts. Which caused the Des Moines Water Works to sue Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties. The case was dismissed by a federal judge because the districts only have authority to remove water. Under state law, they must remove water under petition from the landowners of the drainage district.

MD:Counties expand needle exchange programs to protect public health

The Baltimore Sun | Posted on July 20, 2017

Needle exchange programs for drug users could be coming to six counties across the state, including Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, as state health officials work with local leaders to stop the spread of infectious diseases in the face of the heroin epidemic. The efforts are being lead locally and are at various stages of formation, but state officials are encouraging the programs and offering technical assistance and some funding, said Onyeka Anaedozie, deputy director of the Maryland Department of Health’s Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau.

Microsoft Courts Rural America, And Politicians, With High-Speed Internet

NPR | Posted on July 19, 2017

Microsoft is announcing a new effort to connect more people to the Internet. Not people far away, in the so-called emerging markets — where other American tech giants have built Internet balloons and drones. Instead, Microsoft is focusing right here at home, on the 23.4 million people in rural America without broadband access. The largest companies in the U.S. — by market value — are the Internet giants. But these companies have a bad reputation when it comes to American workers. Tech is known for sending jobs overseas, and now for racing to automate — that is, kill jobs still here.That said, something is changing in the zeitgeist of the tech industry. "We perhaps looked less than we should have at what was happening in rural America," Microsoft President Brad Smith says. "We went overseas, and that's a good thing. We should be around the world. But we should also be focused on our own backyards." Or farmlands.

How do we market meat to Middle America?

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on July 19, 2017

It seems the cattle-beef business has changed little in the past 200 years, or has it?  I mean every other business seems to have changed.  Look at the communications business.  It has evolved beyond Alexander Graham Bell’s wildest imagination.  The iPhone didn’t arrive until 10 years ago, and now over 2 billion people world-wide have one.  Moreover, it’s a computer in their hand that is more powerful than the one that took Neil Armstrong to the moon. In fact, you can compare the beef industry’s maturation to Henry Ford’s Model T marketing when he told his customers that they could have their Model T painted in any color they wanted as long as it was black. If I am going to “lament” the lack of beef industry innovation, I must surely offer some of my thoughts on what I think can best serve our future.First, we must rid ourselves of the defensive, knee-jerk reactions to all things animal rights.  It’s tough, I know.  But, we must get proactive to point out the obvious lies of the animal rightists, and just as importantly if not more so, point to the positive aspects of cattle-beef production.  We are good at pointing the accusing finger of blame, but tepid in offering cogent alternatives.Second, we must begin a more vigorous program of beef’s nutritional value supported by scientific evidence.  Holy cow, the American Medical Association is now recommending hospitals take processed meat off menus.  Where is our response?

America’s Aging Infrastructure: Waterways Face Critical Juncture

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on July 13, 2017

A network of dams and locks that make commercial river traffic possible is at risk of failure after decades of underinvestment, potentially causing significant economic damage

Fish or farms? A new battle rages over California water

The Sacramento Bee | Posted on July 13, 2017

Fish or farms?  The House this week will tackle the question, which for years has triggered a tug-of-war between growers and environmentalists. It plans to vote on a Republican-authored plan aimed at sending more of northern California’s water to the Central Valley farmers who say they badly need it.But California’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, vow to block the bill in that chamber, saying it would bypass environmental safeguards and override state law. Gov. Jerry Brown also opposes the bill.The bill, said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in an interview, “does not strike the right balance because there’s no reason that we have to accept a false choice and somehow weaken the Endangered Species Act in order to be smarter with water policy.”

License-fee dispute ousts staff at Ohio Division of Wildlife

Columbus Dispatch | Posted on July 13, 2017

There has been a bloodletting at the top of the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  Eight senior officials, including the chief, have been removed from their posts after a bid to increase the cost of in-state hunting and fishing licenses divided the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.On one side was former chief Ray Petering and a coalition of 41 sporting organizations that support higher fees to help meet the division’s needs. On the other, advocates say, was Jim Zehringer, head of the agency, who opposed the increase.The cause of the divide was a $220 million budget shortfall projected over the next decade by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, and a grassroots-initiated proposal for a license fee increase to help address that problem. “Ohio sportsmen and women have never had to fight so hard to convince the government to pay our own way,” said Robert Sexton, a consultant with the Sportsmen’s Alliance.

Now is the time to worry about net neutrality

Daily Yonder | Posted on July 13, 2017

The new head of the FCC is interested in undoing rules that protect free speech, fairness, and privacy on the internet. Digital rights advocate Karen Fasimpaur asks for your help in stopping this rollback.