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Rural News

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 https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2760158298008564737

or call/email Carolyn Orr at corr@sarl.us 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.


Oregon:Lawmakers approve 'roadkill' bill despite misgivings

Oregon Capital Insider | Posted on May 30, 2017

Despite some misgivings about a "roadkill" bill permitting drivers to salvage deer and elk accidentally killed by vehicles, the House Agriculture Committee has decided to refer the proposal for a vote on the House floor with a "do pass" recommendation. Senate Bill 372, which would require Oregon wildlife regulators to create rules for such meat salvage permits, has already passed the Senate unanimously. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will write the rules, should monitor these permits closely to ensure there's not a suspicious uptick in roadkill incidents, she said.


Elk and deer herds in danger decades after disease discovery

Capital Press | Posted on May 30, 2017

In a pen surrounded by 8-foot-high fences, at a research station by the side of a winding canyon road in southeast Wyoming, stand seven elk that are going to die.The creatures don’t look sick yet. Their caramel-colored fur still covers round bodies the size of small horses. They run back and forth with each other and two bighorn sheep ewes that share their pen, greedily eating food offered at the gate. How long they’ll last is a question researchers can’t answer.Each animal has been exposed naturally to chronic wasting disease, a killer that can lie dormant for years before corroding their brains with tiny, sponge-like holes.But these female elk are unlike most others. They have rare genetics, which might just prolong their lives.The cow elk are one small piece of a complicated puzzle that has confounded researchers, scientists, wildlife managers and federal disease specialists for decades, threatening deer and elk in more than a dozen states and three Canadian provinces.


Hit Hard by Coal’s Decline, Eastern Kentucky Turns to Drones, Tomatoes, Solar Energy

Wall Street Journal | Posted on May 25, 2017

With coal production on the decline, one energy company is pursuing a project that might seem heretical in this eastern Kentucky mining region: a solar-energy farm. Berkeley Energy Group and a subsidiary of the French renewable-energy company EDF Energies Nouvelles aim to begin building a $100 million facility on a reclaimed strip mine next year.

 


Renewing the Middle Class by Revitalizing Middle America

Center for Opportunity Urbanism | Posted on May 25, 2017

The greatest test America faces is whether it can foster the kind of growth that benefits and expands the middle class. To do so, the United States will need to meet three challenges: recover from the Great Recession, rebalance the American and international economies, and gain access to the global middle class for the future of American goods and services. The fulcrum for meeting these challenges is the combination of industries and resources concentrated in the New American Heartland, the center of the country’s productive economy. Traditionally, the Heartland has been defined as the agriculturally and industrially strong Midwest, alone or perhaps together with the Upper Plains. However, the geographic distribution of US manufacturing and energy extraction has expanded through the growth of new manufacturing zones, largely in Texas, the South and the Gulf Coast. Our map of the New American Heartland includes not only the Midwest and Upper Plains, but portions of all the Gulf States — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida — and the non-coastal southern states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas.


Changes to Visa Program Put Foreign-Born Doctors in Limbo

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on May 25, 2017

Just a few months ago, the future appeared promising and certain for Dr. Sunil Sreekumar Nair. A citizen of the United Kingdom, he was completing his residency in internal medicine at a Brooklyn hospital, and he had accepted a job in a hospital near Fort Smith, Arkansas, a rural area with a severe shortage of doctors.Then the Trump administration announced that it was suspending the 15-day expedited process to obtain an H-1B visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign-born workers in specialty fields such as medicine and information technology. Now Nair may not receive his new visa for at least eight months, long after he is supposed to show up for his new job in Arkansas.The Arkansas hospital has offered to keep the job open for him, but Nair isn’t even sure he’ll be able to stay in the country after his original visa expires with the end of his medical residency next month.“To say I am frustrated would be an extreme understatement,” Nair said last week.In addition to suspending the expedited application process, President Donald Trump in April ordered a review of the entire H-1B program.For parts of the country that have difficulty attracting American-born doctors, the uncertainty swirling around the H-1B program is already creating problems, with doctors tied up in legal uncertainty rather than treating patients.“For us, this has been a very positive program that has brought health care to areas of Wisconsin that would otherwise go without,” said Lisa Boero, legal counsel for the immigration program at the Marshfield Clinic Health System, which operates more than 50 clinics through largely rural central and northern Wisconsin, areas with a shortage of doctors.Hospitals in distressed urban neighborhoods also rely on foreign-born medical school graduates to fill medical residencies that might otherwise go vacant.


Maine’s highest court rules ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional

Portland Press Herald | Posted on May 25, 2017

Maine’s highest court concluded Tuesday that the nation’s first statewide ranked-choice voting system violates the Maine Constitution even though it was approved by the state’s voters in a referendum in November. In a unanimous advisory opinion, the seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court acknowledged the validity of citizen-initiative ballot questions but noted that even citizen-enacted laws can be unconstitutional. The court opinion itself doesn’t negate ranked-choice voting, which was supported by 52 percent of Mainers who cast ballots last fall. The justices instead spelled out the Legislature’s options, noting that lawmakers can now vote to repeal the measure or to initiate the process that leads to a constitutional amendment to allow for ranked-choice voting.


Monarch butterfles: The problem with herbicides

Michigan State University | Posted on May 25, 2017

Monarch butterfly populations are shrinking. New research makes a strong case that the reasons for this decline go far beyond what's happening on the wintering grounds and addresses a current controversy about the primary causes of the specie's decline.Unlike other migratory species, which have distinct summer and winter grounds, monarchs take multiple generations to travel from Mexico to Texas, from Texas to the Midwest, from the Midwest and into Canada, and finally, back from the upper Midwest and Canada to Mexico.The team's research could generate answers that eventually help reverse the nearly 20-year decline of monarch butterflies observed in Mexico. It gives hope to anyone, scientists and the public alike, who has ever witnessed the mass of overwintering butterflies in Mexico or cheered a flitting monarch as it traverses vast distances across the United States.


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