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Rural News

Study Shows How Recovery From The Great Recession Transformed The Geography of U.S. Economic Well-Being

Economic Innovation Group | Posted on October 17, 2018

Study finds it took under five years for prosperous communities to replace lost jobs while distressed ones are unlikely to ever recover on current trendlines.  The Economic Innovation Group (EIG) released a new report, From Great Recession to Great Reshuffling: Charting a Decade of Change Across American Communities, tracking changes in the well-being of U.S. communities during a tumultuous decade that included the Great Recession and the subsequent economic recovery. The report is based on findings from the 2018 Distressed Communities Index (DCI), a research project that measures and maps the economic well-being of U.S. zip codes, cities, counties, and congressional districts.The Great Reshuffling has had both positive and negative implications for American communities. Prosperity and population are becoming more closely linked, as the best-off communities are home to a rapidly growing number of Americans. Prosperous zip codes alone saw an increase of over 10 million residents between the two periods studied. However, even as the number of Americans living in a distressed zip code shrinks, the gaps in well-being separating communities are growing wider.“Ten years after the financial crisis, these findings are a sobering reminder that far too many communities have yet to see a true recovery,” said EIG President and CEO John Lettieri. “While there is much to celebrate about the strength of the U.S. economy, the national numbers are becoming less reflective of local realities. We must do far better at ensuring opportunity spreads to every corner of the map.”The study found that the U.S. experienced a widely-shared recession followed by a deeply fractured recovery. Communities across the board saw a surprisingly similar decline in absolute number of jobs during the recession, but prosperous areas dominated the recovery, generating more net new jobs and businesses than the rest of the nation combined, while increasing their human capital advantage in the process.

Drug addiction tops list of rural concerns

The Daily Yonder | Posted on October 16, 2018

A quarter of rural Americans say that drug addiction is the biggest problem their communities face, according to a new poll of rural residents. A lot of that assessment is based on first-hand information. About half of rural residents say they personally know someone, like a friend or family member, who has struggled with opioid addiction. Younger adults were even more likely to know someone struggling with addiction.While drug addiction topped the list of community problems, a slightly smaller percentage of rural residents think that economic concerns are the biggest issue in their communities, according to the poll. When it comes to family matters, however, rural people are more concerned about money and financial problems. Twenty-seven percent said economic issues were their biggest family problem (as opposed to community problem), while only 1 percent said drug addiction was their family’s biggest problem. Health concerns overall (including drug abuse) were the second biggest family problem on the open-ended list, at 16 percent of respondents. The third highest group said their families had no “biggest problem.” 

Rural America is on the frontlines of low-emissions electricity

Science Line | Posted on October 16, 2018

he 6,000 residents of Alaska’s Kodiak Island are used to being on their own, and paying for it. A 10-hour ferry ride separates them from the nearest mainland town, keeping grocery prices high and tourism low. But the one thing the fishing port doesn’t overpay for is electricity. While the typical Alaskan forks over 21 cents for each kilowatt-hour to power their home, the island’s isolated inhabitants get away with around 15. What’s more, Kodiak’s one-of-a-kind power grid now delivers that energy from a 98 percent renewable blend of hydro and wind power, ending a decades-long reliance on pricey and polluting diesel. Cutting-edge energy systems are increasingly finding their way into remote communities like Kodiak, where the harsh economics of seclusion make new strategies that replace costly fossil fuels especially appealing. Kauai, Hawaii, and Greensburg, Kansas, also overhauled their electricity infrastructure in favor of renewable sources. But even at the right price, transitioning to clean energy sources is far from a foregone conclusion. It often takes external pressure to push communities to embrace new energy systems.

Energy Companies In Alaska Fight Controversial Salmon Initiative

NPR | Posted on October 15, 2018

In Alaska, a ballot measure is cutting right to the heart of the state's identity. It's pitting Alaskans' love for salmon against another powerful force - the oil and mining industries. The ballot measure pits the state's love for salmon against its need for oil and mining revenue. The controversial measure has drawn more money than all three gubernatorial candidates combined.

‘I Got Stuck’: In Poor, Rural Communities, Fleeing Hurricane Michael Was Tough

The New York Times | Posted on October 15, 2018

The orders came down to mobile home residents as the menace of Hurricane Michael approached in the Gulf of Mexico: Get out. Get out now. The evacuation mandate reached Gene Bearden, 76, in this blink-and-you-miss-it town with an aspirational name south of Tallahassee and in an area where a storm surge of up to 13 feet had been forecast.Mr. Bearden wanted to leave. He had been wanting to leave Panacea, in fact, for four years, but had not mustered the financial wherewithal to do it, and the arrival of a Category 4 hurricane did nothing to change that.Versions of his story played out across the eastern edge of the Florida Panhandle, home to modest coastal communities where people already hard on their luck had little means to escape the storm’s wrath.

Many Native IDs Won't Be Accepted At North Dakota Polling Places

NPR | Posted on October 15, 2018

Native American groups in North Dakota are scrambling to help members acquire new addresses, and new IDs, in the few weeks remaining before Election Day — the only way that some residents will be able to vote. This week, the Supreme Court declined to overturn North Dakota's controversial voter ID law, which requires residents to show identification with a current street address. A P.O. box does not qualify.Many Native American reservations, however, do not use physical street addresses. Native Americans are also overrepresented in the homeless population. As a result, Native residents often use P.O. boxes for their mailing addresses and may rely on tribal identification that doesn't list an address.Those IDs used to be accepted at polling places — including in this year's primary election — but will not be valid for the general election. And that decision became final less than a month before Election Day, after years of confusing court battles and alterations to the requirements.

As milk prices decline, worries about dairy farmer suicides rise

KAKE | Posted on October 13, 2018

Kansas dairy farmers are used to dealing with hard times, but as they struggle through the fourth year of depressed milk prices, they too have become down.Orville and Mary Jane Miller have been dairy farmers their entire lives. Mary Jane's father passed the farm in Reno County down to them, and they plan to pass it on to their son. “It's very demanding, my wife starts at 1:30 a.m. milking cows. There's a calf born nearly every other day. There's just a lot happening all the time,” said Orville Miller. The Millers milk 170 cows a day, a process that takes four hours at a time.  While they know the business is cyclical, times are really tough right now."Here a couple of weeks ago, I went to sit at my desk to pay the bills, and I started crying, because I didn't know how I was going to pay the bills," Mary Jane told KAKE News.Farmers are making less per gallon of milk now than they did 20 years ago, and they blame an increase in milk production combined with sharply lower exports. The cost to produce a gallon of milk is higher than what a farmer sells a gallon for, meaning most dairies can't even break even."The numbers just don't work out for us. Every month we borrow money to pay the bills and think it's going to get better next year," said Miller.In fact, milk prices have been so low over the last five years, the number of dairy farms in Kansas has dropped from 400 to 290.

Simba The Lab To Provide Comfort To Kids In Court

Vernon Hills Patch | Posted on October 13, 2018

Simba is the nation's first dog to be assigned to a county public defender's office. While the name Simba might remind most of us of a beloved cartoon lion, kids at the Depke Juvenile Justice Complex will meet another Simba whose purpose is to comfort them. The 2-year-old Labrador retriever is assigned to the guardian ad litem office, which advocates for kids' best interests. Simba has one mission, and it's a lucky one. "His job is to be petted," said Kathy Gordon, an assistant public defender and guardian ad litem, according to the Daily Herald. She'll be Simba's main handler.Simba "will provide comfort, compassion and companionship to children involved in abuse, neglect and dependency cases. He will share his same empathetic energy in any Public Defender case where his special presence is needed," the release said.

Could TV Whitespace Get Real With Microsoft Initiative

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 11, 2018

Terrain, demographics, trees, hills, politics, and low population density all conspire to block rural residents from getting easy internet access.  Could that be changing? A year ago Microsoft announced its Airband Initiative, an effort to move TV whitespaces from a good idea to a working technology. The project coordinates smaller Internet service providers, manufacturers, and software vendors around the new technology. Some early signs hint at future successes. “At least 100,000 Ohioans who currently have no broadband should become connected thanks to Microsoft and TV whitespace,” says Kyle Quillen, founder and CEO of Agile Networks. He said Microsoft’s efforts eclipse the work of other tech giants to reach rural parts of the United States.  Amazon is focusing broadband work in the United Kingdom and Germany. Google Fiber has stuck to cities, many already mainstays of the digital economy (Seattle, Austin, and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, for example). Facebook has pilot projects, primarily in developing nations, but members of Congress would like them to do more. Facebook’s effort to serve Africa via satellite literally exploded on the launch pad in 2016.  

Changing housing market, timber glut limit prices

Mississippi State | Posted on October 11, 2018

Housing start fluctuations and an abundance of timber are limiting the ceiling on stumpage prices in Mississippi now, but expect the market to improve when sawmills begin stocking up for winter. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau National, home construction dropped 13 percent from May to June, which is considered a significant decrease. The seasonally adjusted rate for July -- nearly 1.17 million homes -- was 1 percent above June but 1.4 percent below the July 2017 estimate.“Housing starts did drop sharply in June and only rebounded slightly in July,” said John Auel, an assistant professor of forestry with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “This was likely due to increased mortgage rates and a limited supply of homes, which drives the prices up, so people are not purchasing at the rate which would improve housing starts.”For Mississippi tree farmers, this data, coupled with favorable harvesting conditions, means now is not the best time to sell their timber.“Dry weather increases the amount of timber on the market because you can get logging equipment on sites that you couldn’t get them on in the winter because they were too wet,” said Extension forester Glenn Hughes. “If you have a site that is on sandy ground or dry soils, you would want to hold off until the first quarter of 2019 to get a higher price when supplies tighten.”