Traditional toxicity testing underestimates the risk that pharmaceutical and personal care product pollution poses to freshwater ecosystems. Criteria that account for ecological disruption -- not just organism death -- are needed to protect surface waters, which are under pressure from a growing population and escalating synthetic chemical use.
Without question, the most important resource in Phillipsburg, Dodge City, Pittsburg, Salina or any community in Kansas, is human resources. If you look up the definition of human resources, you will find it as: “the individuals who make up the community and their learned skills that create the ability to lead teams of people, manage systems and produce goods and services.” Rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers, ranchers and small community businesses work together for the common good. The single greatest roadblock for success and growth in any community is lack of organized leadership with vision. Fortunately, Kansans have been an active bunch. Citizens of this state have always believed they can get the job done.
The draining of a massive aquifer that underlies portions of eight states in the central U.S. is drying up streams, causing fish to disappear and threatening the livelihood of farmers who rely on it for their crops. Water levels in the Ogallala aquifer have been dropping for decades as irrigators pump water faster than rainfall can recharge it.An analysis of federal data found the Ogallala aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60, The Denver Post reports.The drawdown has become so severe that streams are drying at a rate of 6 miles per year and some highly resilient fish are disappearing. In rural areas, farmers and ranchers worry they will no longer have enough water for their livestock and crops as the aquifer is depleted.The aquifer lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a June report.
But everything changes, and that will, too. Wisconsin-based Book World, which somehow managed to be the fourth-largest book chain in the U.S., will soon vacate storefronts across the Midwest. The company cited the loss of sales to online competitors. So small communities like Rice Lake, Sturgeon Bay, Shawano and 17 others in Wisconsin will lose one more thread of local fabric. A few may have a local bookstore tended by dedicated owners. Most will go without, and their communities will be the less for it. Hopefully a new model will emerge in these towns. Until then, those who love books will probably get them from the online behemoth that will go unnamed. Pining for local storefronts, local banks, local grocers and the like can easily devolve into nostalgic whining, but we do lose part of who we are as these institutions fail, or when we fail them.As the holidays approach, generations of Wisconsinites will recall piling into the family car for the Thanksgiving-night unveiling of the H.C. Prange Christmas windows in their communities. Those nights are long gone, but the memories linger. Book World the chain isn’t local, but its stores sure are. They have whole sections of books by local and regional authors. Here, a best-seller has been “The Animal Keepers: The Story of an Unlikely Hero and an Unforgettable Season.” It is a touching tale written by Donn Behnke, the cross-country coach at Stevens Point Area Senior High, in which he tells of a special championship season and how the team and community rallied around one special member of that team. Written a couple of years ago, it must still sell briskly, as evidenced by the prominent place it holds on the local and regional shelves at Book World. You can buy the book online, but the question is, “Why?” It’s a local book about local folks, and you can get it at a local bookstore.
In the summer of 2016, drug overdose deaths in Baltimore were exploding and health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials the city needed real-time data to better manage its public health response. Four months later, the DEA’s Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) team had developed a smart phone application that could be used by first responders to record the time and location of overdoses and transmit the information to a regional mapping database. Today, that tool, known as ODMAP, is used by more than 250 law enforcement, first responder and public health agencies in 27 states.
On Monday, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presided over the first meeting of the reconstituted Rural Development Council on behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor is re-establishing the council to give rural Pennsylvanians a louder voice in state government and to better coordinate state programs for rural communities.“Pennsylvania has nearly 3.4 million Pennsylvanians living in rural areas, spread throughout 66 of our 67 counties,” said Redding, who will chair the council.“This council will help ensure rural Pennsylvania voices are heard as we work together across sectors to solve problems and develop strategies designed to grow our rural communities and ensure they are vibrant places to call home,” he said.The council consists of leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors across the state.
In this brief, we use interview and focus group data to describe some of the ways that restricted rural housing stock affects working families in two rural New England counties, and explore solutions proposed by rural residents and experts to make housing affordable (see Box 1 on page 2). Rural amenities and scenery make residence in certain New England regions desirable for second-home owners, vacationers, and retirees. However, the use of housing for these purposes, combined with efforts to conserve acreage and preserve scenery, serves to diminish the supply of housing, making it unaffordable for many low- and moderate-income residents. Moreover, the housing that is available varies in quality, and regional nonprofit and federal housing assistance programs lack the capacity to meet all residents’ needs.
Low-to-moderate income renters and homeowners in rural Arkansas are reaping the savings from a program they pay for themselves over time to improve energy efficiency in their house or apartment.Tammy Agard, president and co-founder of EEtility in Arkansas, told nearly 190 people attending the 46th annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council Saturday about a program in which an energy cooperative lends people money for energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements to their homes.Residents pay nothing out-of-pocket for the improvements, but instead pay off the loan over time through their monthly utility bill.One rule of thumb: The resident’s saving needs to be at least 20 percent more than the cost of the improvements.The on-bill loan program is also known as tariff on-bill financing. What Agard appreciates about the program she manages is that “it helps low-income people achieve energy efficiency. The mentality used to be that energy efficiency is for wealthy people, and not for me. We are proud to be at the forefront.”
Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) officially announced plans to build a dairy ingredients plant in Garden City, Kansas. In a ceremony at its 156-acre site in Garden City, representatives from the Cooperative were joined by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, city and state officials and the area’s dairy farmers to break ground on the facility. The state-of-the-art plant will produce whole, skim and nonfat dry milk powder, as well as cream, and is a partnership between DFA and 12 of its member farms in Southwest Kansas.
The idea of a farmer health-care cooperative had been kicked around in Minnesota since 2009 but had faced multiple regulatory stumbling blocks. At the end of last year, Minnesota farmers complained to state lawmakers that the insurance exchange was collapsing down to one insurance option across much of the exchange and as many as seven counties in the state were looking at no insurance option. Minnesota lawmakers passed legislation last spring specifically allowing farmers and their employees to form a health-care cooperative. "It will fill a need in the individual marketplace for the people who have gotten hammered by the premium increases," said Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union. "This is where all the farmers fall, and this is an attempt to correct that." The cooperative, called 40 Square, is a self-insurance plan that operates like most insurance policies with a deductible, copays and a percentage of out-of-pocket costs. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are waived for routine preventive care, and there are standard costs for prescription drugs. A summary of 40 Square plans offers annual deductible options for families from $3,000 to $13,100 in different plans.To sign up for 40 Square, a Minnesotan has to farm and have at least one common-law employee -- a person who receives a W-2 for working on the farm. If the insurance is attractive, a farmer who is a sole proprietor might consider working with an accountant to provide a seasonal contractor, or relative, with wages and taxes withheld to issue a W-2 rather than treat that person as an independent contractor with a 1099 form."If your spouse does the books and you issue him or her a W-2, you can consider the farm an employer with a common-law employee," said Charlene Vrieze, project manager for 40 Square.Farmers require an employee because the cooperative is regulated under a Department of Labor regulation dealing with employer-employee benefits.Farmers also purchase stock to join the cooperative, which amounts to a $100 voting share stock and a $1,000 common stock, which will be paid throughout the first 12 months of membership in 40 Square. The cooperative also requires farmers to offer 40 Square insurance to employees for at least three years.