For the first six years of this decade, rural America experienced overall population loss for the first time in history. New Census Bureau estimates suggest that last year overall growth accelerated in nonmetropolitan America where 46.1 million people reside. The population gain was small, just 37,000 (.1 percent), but it contrasts with a loss of 32,000 just two years ago and to a modest population gain last year. Population growth was fueled by renewed net migration coupled with a surplus of births over deaths, though this natural increase is dwindling. The population grew in rural counties near metropolitan areas which have historically grown faster than more remote rural counties because of the advantages of metropolitan proximity. The Great Recession reversed this long-term trend and for several years adjacent counties lost more population than remote rural counties. Between July of 2017 and July of 2018, adjacent rural counties gained 46,000 residents because a domestic migration gain supplemented immigration and natural increase. In contrast, rural counties that were not near metropolitan areas continued to lose population due to sustained domestic migration loss. Growth rates vary widely across nonmetropolitan America. The fastest growing counties have recreational and scenic amenities that attract migrants including retirees from elsewhere in the U.S. Migration slowed to these counties during the Great Recession, but is has significantly increased in the last two years. In contrast, rural farm counties continued to experience domestic outmigration and population loss.
Recovery continues in and along the Missouri Valley in Iowa. And in Nebraska – where a dam burst on the Niobrara River leading to the collapse of many Missouri River levees and flooding downstream in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri – the landscape is bleak.As is too often the case, it ain’t over till it’s over, and it ain’t over yet.Governors in Iowa and Nebraska have declared disasters, and Nebraska has already deployed close to $12.5 million in aid to displaced workers, families, businesses, and farms hammered by the torrent of water, ice, and debris.There’s been no disaster declaration in Missouri, where at least two counties in the northwest corner received the brunt of a record-setting crest close to two feet higher than any recorded flood.Now the Missouri Valley is impassable — due to road and bridge damage, and water — from US Hwy 34 near Plattsmouth, Nebraska, and Pacific Junction, Iowa, all the way down to Rulo, Nebraska, and Big Lake Missouri, on US 159. In all, four river crossings in a row are disabled. That also includes Highway 2, which connects Iowa and Nebraska at Nebraska City; and and US 136 in Missouri at the Brownville Nebraska bridge. Those 4 closures leave a 140 mile long transportation gap in the heart of America.
At an afternoon press conference at the White House, flanked by tower linemen and ranchers, the president and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai announced the agency’s largest-ever auction of wireless spectrum—that is, the radio frequencies over which wireless communications signals travel—for the purpose of deploying fifth-generation wireless (5G) technology. As Mashable explains, wireless networks run on radio waves that FCC controls and opens up to private carriers through an auction process. In other words? What the announced last week will open up a huge new swath of those frequencies. China has already been pursuing similar domestic actions. Pai also announced a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, headed by FCC, that will award over $2 billion in subsidies every year for the next 10 years to build out that 5G network; the goal is to reach 4 million residences and businesses. Ars Technica reports the fund will subsidize companies that build out the infrastructure, like a fiber-optic backbone, needed to support wireless broadband. (Wireless needs wires.) The fund will succeed the Connect America Fund, a federal rural broadband initiative that primarily subsidized technologies like cable and DSL.
That experience underscores the complexity of defining what constitutes a rural community for the purposes of qualifying for rural-specific federal programs — a question that has plagued Congress, USDA officials and researchers for decades. Communities looking to qualify for rural development programs must first prove that they meet the government's definition of “rural” before they can be considered for assistance. But there’s no one-size-fits-all definition, and population thresholds vary from program to program. As larger socioeconomic forces have shaped demographic changes in rural communities and spurred population shifts, some experts and policymakers — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue among them — have called for an updated calculation that takes more factors into account beyond population size.
But the mountain lions know that something is wrong. A number of years ago, Swanson and her colleagues studied which deer mountain lions prefer to attack. “The mountain lions were definitely preferentially selecting deer that had chronic wasting disease over those that were negative,” she says. “And for most of the ones that they had killed, we had not detected any chronic wasting disease symptoms yet. So certainly the lions were able to key in on far more subtle cues than we were.”
Co-ops offer several advantages for rural communities attempting to improve broadband connectivity. But large telcos don’t like them. North Carolina has loosened its restrictions on co-ops. Will other states follow?
Oregon wildlife regulators would be required to consider elk overpopulation when issuing tags to curb property damage under a bill approved for a vote in the Senate. Senate Bill 301, which would add the overpopulation provision, cleared the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on April 8 with a unanimous “do pass” recommendation.Farm and ranch organizations that support SB 301 say the additional consideration is needed because the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife currently issues tags based on historical and active damage rather than herd size.
The digital divide between urban American and farmers, businesses and communities in rural America is widening, partially because the Federal Communications Commission uses flawed mapping tools to define who has good internet access. Members of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Wednesday heard from the president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau and others about mapping problems with FCC that make it more difficult to know exactly where internet coverage holes actually exist. Multiple people testified that FCC coverage maps dramatically overstate broadband coverage."We cannot close the digital divide if we don't know the size and location of existing coverage gaps," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the committee.
A partnership between the Food Bank of Central Louisiana and the Rapides Parish School Board is proving to be bountiful in knowledge and food for students involved in pilot programs at Mabel Brasher Elementary School and Phoenix Academic Magnet School. Staff members of the Food Bank’s Good Food Project sustainable gardening program have been teaching students at the two schools about gardening and nutrition.
While some alarmists predict artificial intelligence will decimate the workforce, there is an alternative. Concerted action by leaders in labor, business, government and education can ensure we take advantage of technological gains without replacing workers with robots. Rural communities, with overall declining employment, have a big stake in the issue.While some alarmists predict artificial intelligence will decimate the workforce, there is an alternative. Concerted action by leaders in labor, business, government and education can ensure we take advantage of technological gains without replacing workers with robots. Rural communities, with overall declining employment, have a big stake in the issue.