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Rural News

Montana Governor Announces $1.1 Million to Help Montana Main Street Businesses Create Jobs, Train Employees and Plan for Growth | Posted on June 7, 2017

Governor Steve Bullock  announced $1,124,030 in economic development grants to assist Main Street businesses across Montana with creating 116 jobs, providing workforce training and developing plans for growth and expansion. “As Montana’s strong economy continues to grow, Main Street businesses in communities across the state are adding jobs and seeking a skilled workforce to fill them,” Governor Bullock said. “These funds will help businesses plan for responsible growth and train employees for success.”The funds are being awarded through the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund (BSTF) and the Primary Sector Workforce Training Grant (WTG) programs at the Department of Commerce, Office of Tourism and Business Development.BSTF provides state funds to promote long-term stable economic growth in Montana through two categories: job creation and planning. More information can be found at provides state funds to assist business with the training of new jobs.

Pet food, pet care to keep growing, driven by ecommerce

Pet Food Industry | Posted on June 7, 2017

The global pet care market cracked the US$100 billion sales ceiling in 2016, thanks to a healthy 4.7 percent increase over the year before. Euromonitor International projects that growth to continue, with sales for all pet products and services globally reaching US$117 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 2.4 percent at constant prices. Pet food will maintain its significant contributions; it accounted for US$75.25 billion of the 2016 sales (at 4.8 percent growth), or nearly 73 percent of all pet care. Increasingly, both pet care and pet food sales growth is driven by ecommerce as that channel rises in popularity among pet owners, particularly younger ones. The share of pet care sales from the online channel varies from 8 percent in Western Europe to a high of 17 percent in Asia. In Eastern Asia markets like China and Korea, nearly one-third of cat and dog food is bought online, according to Euromonitor.In the US market, 9 percent of pet care sales occurred online in 2016, according to Packaged Facts’ latest report, “US Pet Market Outlook, 2017-2018.” Specific to pet food, ecommerce accounted for 7 percent of 2016 sales. Packaged Facts went so far as to describe the internet as the “new pet parent, as a dramatic force reshaping the market landscape.”

Hard Times Come to Much of Rural America

Wall Street Journal | Posted on June 7, 2017

Scarcity of capital for small businesses has accelerated the crisis described in “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’” by stunting the growth of young businesses. Businesses in rural towns are starving for equal access to capital that has benefited urban areas for decades. Scarcity of capital for small businesses has accelerated the crisis described in “Rural America Is the New ‘Inner City’”  by stunting the growth of young businesses. Traditionally, a rural business owner or enterprising farmer who needed assistance to purchase farm or manufacturing equipment or even warehouse space would go to the community bank or farm credit office and acquire a loan. Today there are far fewer community banks, and those remaining lenders have higher credit and liquidity standards. Federal lending standards have made loans cost-prohibitive for many entrepreneurs. Furthermore, big banks have decreased their loan volumes to small businesses, creating a widening lending gap.

Chicken snuggling: A dangerous trend that must end

Chicago Tribune | Posted on June 7, 2017

America has a chicken snuggling problem. That's right, snuggling. Not smuggling. Chicken smuggling is an entirely different — albeit equally despicable — problem that I'll address in a future column.The pressing poultry issue for today is that too many Americans are pressing poultry to their faces, giving pet chickens or adorable, fuzzy chicks a hug or a kiss.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with a number of state departments of health and agriculture are investigating a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections "linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks." As of May 25, there were 372 people from 47 states infected, and 71 of those people were hospitalized. About a third of the victims were from the key chicken snuggling demographic: children under 5.Last year set the record for salmonella infections caused by interactions with backyard poultry flocks. The CDC recorded 895 people infected, with 209 of them hospitalized. Three of the people who were hospitalized died.

Need for better broadband in rural Minnesota outstrips resources available to provide it

Star Tribune | Posted on June 6, 2017

Casey Jelinski was sure it would be easy to run a graphic design company from her new home when she moved with her family to Aitkin County from the Twin Cities area a decade ago. But internet speeds were shockingly slow. Sometimes it took hours to upload files to clients in China and Europe. She’d occasionally drive more than 60 miles to Duluth and check in at a hotel to work.“It never dawned on me that it would be such a detriment to my business,” Jelinski said of inadequate broadband access. “There’s no reason for it.”A recent switch to a DSL connection helped, but Jelinski worried about her business’ future. The family moved to De Pere, Wis., last week — after Jelinski confirmed that it has great broadband access.In Aitkin County — which at 27 percent has the least broadband coverage in Minnesota — and across the U.S., reliable, speedy internet is increasingly essential for work, health care, education and social connections. But as President Donald Trump’s administration looks to clamp down on federal spending, there’s deepening uncertainty about the flow of federal dollars necessary to bring faster internet to lower-population areas.“The outlook [for rural broadband improvements] is not positive” under Trump, said Milda Hedblom, a lawyer, broadband advocate and digital studies professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.About 22 percent of households in rural Minnesota — 202,000 homes — lack access to fixed, nonmobile broadband service at download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of 3 mbps, according to the state Department of Employment and Economic Development. Minnesota is ahead of the national average: 39 percent of rural residents have no access to those speeds, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Connecticut experiments with Cuurt Advocates for abused animals

Custom Wire | Posted on June 6, 2017

Many states have victim's advocates or child advocates, people in the judicial system who represent those affected by crime or abuse. Now, one state has created legal advocates for abused animals, an experiment being watched across the nation for signs of success. There are eight approved volunteer advocates across Connecticut - seven lawyers and a UConn law professor, working with her students. It's up to a judge to decide whether to appoint one, but they can be requested by prosecutors or defense attorneys. In the first six months of the law, advocates have been appointed in five cases."Every state has the problem of overburdened courts that understandably prioritize human cases over animal cases in allocating resources," said University of Connecticut professor Jessica Rubin, a specialist in animal law. "Here's a way to help."The American Kennel Club, though, opposed the legislation, saying it could result in confusion over who is responsible for an animal and limit the rights of animal owners, including in cases in which someone else is charged with the abuse.Supporters say those issues are easily handled by a judge.The law was created by the Legislature and went into effect late last year. "Desmond's Law" was named for a dog that was beaten, starved and strangled by its owner, Alex Wullaert, who admitted to the violence but avoided jail time under a probation program for first-time offenders that allowed his record to be wiped clean.

National Rural Housing Coalition letter opposing Trump rural development budget cuts

National Rural Housing Coalition | Posted on June 1, 2017

We write to express our opposition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget for Rural Development. This budget if enacted, along with the ill-advised recommendation to eliminate the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development, will substantially diminished resources dedicated to improving rural communities and the lives of rural people.  We believe a better choice for rural America is to continue USDA Rural Development programs at no less than the FY 2017 levels included in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (115-31). This will allow USDA Rural Development to continue its important mission of providing technical and financial assistance aimed at improving the living and economic conditions in rural America. We also urge the Committee to oppose elimination of the Rural Development mission area and the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development. Rural Development needs the time and attention of a management team led by an Under Secretary who is empowered to direct and administer rural development programs and field staff.

Immigrants Keep an Iowa Meatpacking Town Alive and Growing

The New York Times | Posted on June 1, 2017

Fierce global competition, agricultural automation and plant closures have left many rural towns struggling for survival. In areas stripped of the farm and union jobs that paid middle-class wages and tempted the next generation to stay put and raise a family, young people are more likely to move on to college or urban centers like Des Moines. Left behind are an aging population, abandoned storefronts and shrinking economic prospects. Yet Storm Lake, hustled along by the relentless drive of manufacturers to cut labor costs and by the town’s grit to survive, is still growing. However clumsily at times, this four-square-mile patch has absorbed successive waves of immigrants and refugees — from Asia, from Mexico and Central America, and from Africa.They fill most of the grueling, low-paid jobs at the pork, egg and turkey plants; they spend money at local shops, and open restaurants and grocery stores; they fill church pews and home-team benches. While more than 88 percent of the state’s population is non-Hispanic white, less than half of Storm Lake’s is. Walk through the halls of the public schools and you can hear as many as 18 languages.

Join us for Changes in Agriculture Law Webinar

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders | Posted on June 1, 2017

Webinar: Recent Developments in Agriculture & Food Law: Impacts on States

Wednesday, June 14 at 2:00 pm ET (1:00 pm CT) 

State Agriculture and Rural Leaders is collaborating with the National Agriculture Law Center in a pilot webinar on recent developments in agriculture and food law. Agriculture and food law at the local, state and national level is changing constantly and impacting our farmers, food producers and rural residents.

It is almost impossible for you to stay abreast of the legal challenges and changes impacting your constituents and state laws. To make it easier for you, we are offering this update. After registering for the webinar, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join. If you are unable to attend, register now and a link to the recording will be sent to you.

This webinar will address developments related to: 

  • the Waters of the United States rule;
  • Maryland’s passage of legislation banning the use of antibiotics in health animals; 
  • property tax assessment for farmland; 
  • the Philadelphia soda tax; 
  • a stay on organic practice rules; and 
  • other recent legal developments in agriculture and food legislation and law.

Register now at

or call/email Carolyn Orr at or 859.265.0658 to register.

Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers

Salon | Posted on May 30, 2017

Glacier National Park is losing its namesake glaciers and new research shows just how quickly: Over the past 50 years, 39 of the parks glaciers have shrunk dramatically, some by as much as 85 percent. Of the 150 glaciers that existed it the park in the late 19th century, only 26 remain.