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SARL Members and Alumni News

Wisconsin's agriculture agent shortage heralds the end of an era for rural America

MikeCallicrate.com | Posted on May 31, 2018

The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has reduced its fleet, bought out ranks of rural agents, and cut the number of positions across the state. Now farmers stand to lose access to 100 years of knowledge at a time when they need it most. “Land rent is a very big topic right now,” says Lori Berget, a youth educator in Lafayette County’s cooperative extension office. “A lot of producers call in and want to know: ‘What can I pay for land rent?’ And on the flip side of that, a lot of producers are calling in and asking: ‘What can I charge for land rent?’”Berget and her co-workers are uniquely qualified to answer those questions. They’re called extension agents: Experts employed by the state’s land-grant university—a state- and federally-funded public institution founded on the study of agriculture, and dedicated to educating farming and working-class families—to bring farm research and technology to rural communities.Systems like the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension—so named because of financial and programmatic responsibilities shared by federal, state, and county governments—were key to the growth of American agriculture. After the Smith-Lever Act established the system in 1914, it was extension agents who taught farmers to implement crop and livestock management practices that not only allowed them to make a living, but also to feed the world.


Hurricane Maria killed more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico

USA Today | Posted on May 30, 2018

Hurricane Maria likely killed thousands of people across Puerto Rico last year, more than 70 times the official estimate, a Harvard study released Tuesday says. Authorities in Puerto Rico placed the death toll at 64 after Maria roared through the island Sept. 20, destroying buildings and knocking out power to virtually the entire U.S. territory of more than 3 million people.Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, surveyed more than 3,000 households on the battered island. By extrapolating those findings, researchers determined that at least 4,645 "excess deaths" occurred during the storm and the weeks that followed.


Teacher shortages are especially acute in rural areas. Here’s one solution in Colorado.

The Washington Post | Posted on May 30, 2018

Many schools across the country are struggling with a crippling teacher shortage. The number of students entering university-based teacher preparation programs has steadily declined and the number of teachers retiring or getting ready to retire is increasing; adding to this, current working conditions and public perceptions of the teaching profession have led to increased turnover rates — and according to some organizations, this growing shortage of teachers is at crisis level.This is especially true for rural communities, including in Colorado. Alternative licensure pathways, including residency models of entering the teaching profession, have been a lifeline for finding and keeping rural teachers in the state.The state’s 2016-17 Educator Preparation Report  submitted by the Colorado Department of Higher Education [CDHE] and the Colorado Department of Education [CDE] indicates the state has seen “record low enrollment numbers” in educator preparation programs in recent years. Last year, Colorado’s legislature passed a law to allow retired teachers to be rehired without affecting their pensions. This effort has supported small Colorado districts, such as the Montezuma-Cortez School District. However, it is far from a long-term solution.Colorado House Bill 17-1003, passed last year, required the Colorado Department of Higher Education and Colorado Department of Education to study the recruitment, preparation and retention of teachers, with attention to rural Colorado and specific ways to address the state’s shortage. The just completed  legislative session included three bills put forward by legislators to address Colorado’s teacher shortage, including a bipartisan bill on loan forgiveness that would compensate teachers for their service in rural areas upon completion of a preparation program. But the urgency to meet the specific needs of rural school districts in Colorado, which are disproportionately affected by the current teacher shortage, is lost within the long list of the state’s potential action items.


Michigan lawmaker introduces bill that would ban debarking of dogs

Detroit Free Press | Posted on May 30, 2018

State Rep. Tim Sneller, D-Burton, has owned dogs all his life, including his current rescue pet Oscar, a miniature Dachsund whose woof is always welcome. He wants to make sure that other pet owners appreciate that a dog’s bark is an essential multi-purpose signal —that they need to go out, eat or provide a warning of impending danger — and prohibit veterinarians from performing debarking procedures.He’s introduced a bill that bans the procedure of removing tissue from a pet’s vocal cords in order to reduce or soften a dog’s bark.“That’s the way the dog communicates with us,” he said. “To have this done just because you don’t want to hear a dog bark is cruel and unusual punishment.”


Evolution wording removed from draft of Arizona school science standards

Arizona Central | Posted on May 30, 2018

The Arizona Department of Education hopes to make changes to science standards, which will affect K-12 districts and charter schools. The changes include removing the word "evolution" in some areas and describing it as a "theory" in others. Some educators and scientists are outraged by the change. According to the department, the standards are not curriculum or instructional practices. The standards focus on 14 core ideas regarding science and engineering that teachers use to create their curriculum.


A lot less pot is being sold in California than initially estimated, analyst says

The Los Angeles Times | Posted on May 30, 2018

With tax revenue from legal pot sales in California falling short of projections, a financial analysis firm estimated Tuesday that total sales this year will be $1.9 billion, significantly less than the $3.8 billion the company expected.The firm, New Frontier Data, had also estimated that total sales in California would reach $6.7 billion by 2025, but now says it is more likely the industry will generate $4.72 billion by then.Most cities in California have refused to allow pot businesses, and there are tough rules for those who want state licenses to grow, distribute and sell marijuana. 


How much has the opioid crisis cost Ohio?

Akron Beacon Journal | Posted on May 30, 2018

Even before the opioid crisis peaked here in 2016, Ohio was already spending about the same on opioid dependency statewide as it did kindergarten through high school education, according to a recently released study. The enormous price tag in 2015 of opioid dependency in the state was somewhere between $6.6 billion and $8.8 billion. During the same time, the state spent about $8.2 billion on public education, according to the study released by Ohio State University’s C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy.Your Voice Ohio, a news collaborative, highlighted the study last week as the state’s behavioral health, addiction and rehabilitation workers are preparing to host the ninth annual opiate conference in Columbus next month. The two-day educational event is expected to draw 1,200 people.The study, “Taking Measure of Ohio’s Opioid Crisis,” aims to help policymakers make better decisions by evaluating the crisis. Among other things, the study zeroed in on the costs of opioid addiction across four categories: Health care and treatment, criminal justice, lost productivity among opioid abusers, and lost productivity following an overdose death.In 2015 — the most recent numbers used for this part of the study — those costs added up to between $500 and $999 for every person in Summit, Portage and Wayne counties, regardless of whether they used drugs themselves.The costs in Stark and Medina were lower, somewhere between $0 and $499 per person, the study said. But costs skyrocketed in the southwest part of Ohio, averaging more than $1,000 per capita in an area stretching from Dayton and Cincinnati east to Lawrence County, Ohio’s most southern county, which borders West Virginia.Because costs were so extraordinary in southwest Ohio, the study said “state efforts to reduce current and future opioid abuse should likely focus on this area of the state.”


State To Invest $12M Into Veterinary College At LIU Post

Oyster Bay Patch | Posted on May 30, 2018

New York State will invest $12 million to help build the College of Veterinary Medicine at LIU Post in Brookville as part of the state's $72 million investment to support three transformative, economic developments on Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. The funds will go towards a $40 million project to create a College of Veterinary Medicine at Long Island University to help fill a void in that academic area. There are only 30 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States and just three in the northeast. None of these veterinary colleges are located in the New York metropolitan area.The college will be established in 2018 and classes will begin in September 2019.


Big Island agriculture hit hard by sulfur dioxide laced fog from Kilauea

Hawaii Tribune | Posted on May 30, 2018

A week and a half after the earth split open in Puna and the hazards of Kilauea began devouring and toxifying everything in their path, 67-year-old Garuda Johnson looked out his window. Seeing through the sulfur dioxide-laced haze of vog — which has measured quantities of SO2 as high as 10 parts per million (ppm) on Johnson’s personal monitor — is nearly impossible at distance. But at close range, he could see well enough to make out just how extensively volcanic emissions had ravaged his 20-acre Pahoa farm on Kamaili Road, just a few miles from the doorstep of Kilauea’s destruction.“The vegetables were dead, they died first,” said Johnson, owner and operator of Johnson Family Farms. “The vegetables just started turning white and they were just gone. All of them.”Tomatoes, lettuce, beets, radishes, more — all were wiped out. Next were most of Johnson’s 400 avocado trees, first their leaves and then their fruit. Tens of thousands of seedlings in the farm’s start room perished as well.His business in ruins and any hope of a profit this year squandered, Johnson, his family and roughly a dozen employees had no choice but to abandon the property, which is home to seven people. The only hope to which Johnson continues to cling, albeit tenuously, is that lava won’t slide down from the volcano to claim what’s left.“We lost where we lived,” Johnson said.


Georgia County sued over alleged talks with Pilgrim’s Pride

Watt Ag Net | Posted on May 30, 2018

A nonprofit group called the McLemore Cove Preservation Society is suing the government of Walker County, Georgia, claiming that government officials are secretly “conspiring to install a large-scale chicken slaughterhouse” in the area. The group claims county officials are in talks with Pilgrim’s Pride and is offering the company tax incentives to open a plant there. Walker County is located directly south of Chattanooga, Tennessee.However, those talks have never been confirmed by county officials or by Pilgrim’s Pride. Further, Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield and local economic development director Robert Wardlaw said that the county has a practice of signing non-disclosure agreements when negotiating with pote


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