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Rural News

An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America

The New York Times | Posted on March 2, 2017

Less than 3 percent of people in modern industrial economies are farmers. But around the world, I am not alone: The United Nations estimates that more than two billion people are farmers, most of them small farmers; that’s about one in three people on the planet. My farm’s lack of profitability perhaps shouldn’t be of any great concern to anyone else. I’m a grown-up, and I chose to live this way. I chose it because my ancestors all did this, and because I love it, however doomed it might seem to others. My farm is where I live, and there is actually no other way to farm my land, which is why it hasn’t changed much for a millennium or more. In truth, I could accept the changes around me philosophically, including the disappearance of farms like mine, if the results made for a better world and society. But the world I am seeing evolve in front of my eyes isn’t better, it is worse. Much worse. Economists say that when the world changes people will adapt, move and change to fit the new world. But of course, real human beings often don’t do that. They cling to the places they love, and their identity remains tied to the outdated or inefficient things they used to do, like being steel workers or farmers. Often, their skills are not transferable anyway, and they have no interest in the new opportunities. So, these people get left behind.

After Court Setbacks, Lawmakers Push for New Voting Restrictions

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on March 1, 2017

In some states, such as Texas and Arkansas, lawmakers are responding to court rulings that struck down or scaled back earlier attempts to restrict voting. Bills in other states would make changes to early voting and registration deadlines.  Proponents of the legislation say the proposed limitations, such as requiring a photo ID and eliminating Election Day registration, are necessary to restore public confidence in the electoral system. They say the measures protect the integrity of the ballot box by confirming voters’ identities and whether they are qualified to vote. In state legislatures the measures are backed mainly by Republicans, though polls show that most Democrats also support a photo ID requirement. “Confidence has been eroded. Even if it’s just anecdotal evidence, people are questioning whether the ballot is secure,” said Arkansas state Rep. Mark Lowery, a Republican who is sponsoring a photo ID law there. “When there’s a lack of confidence in the election, it undermines confidence in democracy itself.”

Oklahoma:Professionals sought for rural areas

Frederick Press Leader | Posted on February 27, 2017

Two state House bills intended to attract doctors and workers to sparsely populated areas of Oklahoma were endorsed in committees recently.  House Bill 2301 by Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka), would authorize a tax exemption on the first $25,000 of annual income earned by any “qualifying doctor” who moves to a rural area of Oklahoma. The exemption could be claimed so long as the doctor remained in that designated area, the bill indicates.  The bill defines a “rural area” to mean any town or unincorporated area that has fewer than 25,000 residents and is at least 25 miles from the nearest municipality that has a population that exceeds 25,000.  The bill also specifies that a “qualifying doctor” means a medical doctor or osteopathic physician who: * is licensed to practice medicine in Oklahoma, * was graduated from a medical institution of higher education in the state, and * resides within the same county as the rural area where the compensation that qualifies for the tax exemption proposed by HB 2301 is earned.

Rural America broadens our economic, intellectual, cultural diversity

Salon | Posted on February 27, 2017

Rural people and issues generally receive little attention from the urban-centric media and policy elites. Yet, rural America makes unique contributions to the nation’s character and culture, as well as provides most of its food, raw materials, drinking water and clean air. The recent presidential election also reminds us that, though rural America may be ignored, it continues to influence the nation’s future.“Rural America” is a deceptively simple term for a remarkably diverse collection of places. It includes nearly 72 percent of the land area of the United States and 46 million people. Farms, ranches, grain elevators and ethanol plants reflect the enduring importance of agriculture.

When private pain becomes a community problem

High Country News | Posted on February 27, 2017

Overall, the response to the epidemic in the West has been a “whack-a-mole approach,” Susan Kingston, coordinator for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the Center for Opioid Safety Education in Seattle, told me. “We’re trying to make any change we can. Big solutions are happening, but they are slow and need a lot of money and political commitment.” In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established $11 million in grants for Colorado, among 10 other states, to expand rehabilitation services for those with opioid addiction disorders. The state has among the highest treatment rates, according to SAMHSA, and so far has received more than $51 million in federal grants to fight addiction. Yet the problem stubbornly persists. In Craig, heroin abuse has jumped. From the time High Country Medical closed, in 2012, to 2015, heroin busts went up 70 percent, from 36 to 121, according to estimates from the Colorado Department of Justice

Deadly U.S. heroin overdoses quadrupled in five years: study

Reuters | Posted on February 27, 2017

The number of deadly heroin overdoses in the United States more than quadrupled from 2010 to 2015, a federal agency said on Friday, as the price of the drug dropped and its potency increased. There were 12,989 overdose deaths involving heroin in 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, compared with 3,036 such fatalities five years earlier. In 2010, heroin was involved in 8 percent of U.S. drug overdose deaths, a study by the Atlanta-based center said. By 2015, that proportion had jumped to 25 percent. The center's research was based on death certificate data and did not examine the underlying causes. But a 2015 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the declining price of heroin and its increasing purity might be causing more people to use it.

This century is broken

The New York Times | Posted on February 27, 2017

For every one American man aged 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the labor force. If Americans were working at the same rates they were when this century started, over 10 million more people would have jobs. As Eberstadt puts it, “The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.” That means there’s an army of Americans semi-attached to their communities, who struggle to contribute, to realize their capacities and find their dignity. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics time-use studies, these labor force dropouts spend on average 2,000 hours a year watching some screen. That’s about the number of hours that usually go to a full-time job. Fifty-seven percent of white males who have dropped out get by on some form of government disability check. About half of the men who have dropped out take pain medication on a daily basis. A survey in Ohio found that over one three-month period, 11 percent of Ohioans were prescribed opiates. One in eight American men now has a felony conviction on his record.

Our Miserable 21st Century

Commentary Magazine | Posted on February 27, 2017

From work to income to health to social mobility, the year 2000 marked the beginning of what has become a distressing era for the United States.  From peak to trough, the collapse in work rates for U.S. adults between 2008 and 2010 was roughly twice the amplitude of what had previously been the country’s worst postwar recession, back in the early 1980s. In that previous steep recession, it took America five years to re-attain the adult work rates recorded at the start of 1980. This time, the U.S. job market has as yet, in early 2017, scarcely begun to claw its way back up to the work rates of 2007—much less back to the work rates from early 2000. As may be seen in Figure 3, U.S. adult work rates never recovered entirely from the recession of 2001—much less the crash of ’08. And the work rates being measured here include people who are engaged in any paid employment—any job, at any wage, for any number of hours of work at all. On Wall Street and in some parts of Washington these days, one hears that America has gotten back to “near full employment.” For Americans outside the bubble, such talk must seem nonsensical. It is true that the oft-cited “civilian unemployment rate” looked pretty good by the end of the Obama era—in December 2016, it was down to 4.7 percent, about the same as it had been back in 1965, at a time of genuine full employment. The problem here is that the unemployment rate only tracks joblessness for those still in the labor force; it takes no account of workforce dropouts. Alas, the exodus out of the workforce has been the big labor-market story for America’s new century. (At this writing, for every unemployed American man between 25 and 55 years of age, there are another three who are neither working nor looking for work.) Thus the “unemployment rate” increasingly looks like an antique index devised for some earlier and increasingly distant war: the economic equivalent of a musket inventory or a cavalry count.

California county may have to pay farmer 48$ million

The Press Enterprise | Posted on February 24, 2017

San Bernardino County could pay $48 million for the property of one of the few remaining Chino dairy farmers after the family complained in a lawsuit that most of their spread, located under a landing pattern for Chino Airport, had been turned into a no-build zone without compensation. The lawsuit, which went into private arbitration, claimed that the county had, bit by bit over the past 25 years, turned most of the 58 acres of dairy land owned since the 1960s by Jim and Annie Nyenhuis into a runway protection zone. Planes, including private jets, fly low right over the family's ranch-style home and property on Remington Street as they come in for a landing at the airport, just west of the dairy. The $48 million includes the value of the 58-acres of land, legal costs, and relocation money. The designation precluded most of the acreage from development, even as property all around the Nyenhuis's farm turned into commercial and housing developments.

Partisan Divide in Congress Wider Than Ever on Environmental Issues, Group Says

Inside Climate News | Posted on February 24, 2017

League of Conservation Voters' voting scorecard shows record disparity on green issues, with GOP campaigns increasingly funded by fossil fuel company contributions. House Republicans cast pro-environmental votes just 5 percent of the time in 2016, while their Democratic colleagues tallied a 94 percent voting record, according to the League of Conservation Voters. That makes the 114th Congress the most politically polarized in the 46-year history of LCV's Scorecard, the new numbers released Thursday show. In the Senate, the average GOP member was voting pro-environment 14 percent of the time, while the Democrats' average was 96 percent. The gap of 85 points between the Republican and Democratic average scores in 2016 was only slightly smaller than the record 87-point divide in 2015. As a whole, Congress was more divided than ever in the two years before the most recent election.   The gulf between the parties on Capitol Hill also coincides with a trend in support lawmakers receive on the campaign trail: In the 2016 election cycle, 88 percent of the $31.3 million that the fossil fuel industry donated in Congressional races went to Republicans; 12 percent to Democrats, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In comparison, as recently as 2008, political contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries favored the GOP over the Democrats by a 75-25 percent split. In 1990, the Republicans' edge was 56-44 percent.