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Rural News

Utah passes 'free-range parenting' law, allowing kids to do some things without parental supervision

ABC News | Posted on March 28, 2018

A new law legalizing free-range parenting will soon take effect in Utah allowing children to do things alone like travelling to school.  The bill redefines "neglect" in Utah law so that kids can participate in some unsupervised activities without their parents being charged. “Kids need to wonder about the world, explore and play in it, and by doing so learn the skills of self-reliance and problem-solving they’ll need as adults," Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement to ABC News. "As a society, we’ve become too hyper about ‘protecting’ kids and then end up sheltering them from the experiences that we took for granted as we were kids. I sponsored SB65 so that parents wouldn’t be punished for letting their kids experience childhood.

Where Small Town America is Thriving – Conclusion

The Agurban | Posted on March 28, 2018

It is widely assumed that high-tech employment, for the most part, will cluster either in big cities or their suburbs. But some venture funders, including some from Silicon Valley, are taking a look at smaller cities, notably in the Midwest. Several smaller cities have achieved growth in STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and math-related) that are far above the national average over the past decade. Much of this has to do with the location of federal labs or universities. The leader, California-Lexington Park, located on Maryland’s scenic eastern shore, has a strong presence in the aerospace and defense industries, and has seen its STEM employment, already 3.5 times the national average, grow 22.3% since 2007. Other STEM-rich smaller towns include the afore-mentioned Los Alamos, No. 8 Kennewick-Richland, Wash., home to the Hanford federal laboratory, No. 4 Lawrence, Kansas, home of the University of Kansas and No. 9 Bremerton-Silverdale, Wash., home to the Puget Sound naval shipyard.Less predictable however has been the STEM growth in No. 3 Jackson, Mich., where a large public utility and post-recession growth of automotive and machinery manufacturing may explain a surprising 26.4% growth in STEM. Jackson is a hub for engineering talent, where the engineering job count is up 44% in the last decade and now 3.2 times more concentrated than national average.

UN reports see a lonelier planet with fewer plants, animals

Minnesota Public Radio | Posted on March 28, 2018

Earth is losing plants, animals and clean water at a dramatic rate, according to four new United Nations scientific reports on biodiversity. Scientists meeting in Colombia issued four regional reports Friday on how well animal and plants are doing in the Americas; Europe and Central Asia; Africa; and the Asia-Pacific area.Their conclusion after three years of study: Nowhere is doing well. The work was about more than just critters, said study team chairman Robert Watson. It is about keeping Earth livable for humans, because we rely on biodiversity for food, clean water and public health, the prominent British and U.S. scientist said.What's happening is a side effect of the world getting wealthier and more crowded with people, Watson said. Humans need more food, more clean water, more energy and more land. And the way society has tried to achieve that has cut down on biodiversity, he said.Crucial habitat has been cut apart, alien species have invaded places, chemicals have hurt plants and animals, wetlands and mangroves that clean up pollution are disappearing, and the world's waters are overfished, he said.Man-made climate change is getting worse, and global warming will soon hurt biodiversity as much as all the other problems combined, Watson said.

Virginia primes itself for a tax experiment in rural areas

The Roanoke Times | Posted on March 28, 2018

The General Assembly has passed — and sent to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature — a bill by Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell (with help from state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County) that offers a seven-year tax break to companies that locate in certain economically-distressed localities and create a certain number of jobs (the number varies depending on the investment). The list of those eligible includes much of Southwest and Southside Virginia, along with many localities along the Chesapeake Bay. The General Assembly also passed a bill by state Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell County, that allows localities to declare closed schools to be a “revitalization zone” whereby it can waive certain local taxes and fees. The idea is that these buildings could become incubators for small businesses. Here’s where we get the potential trifecta of tax breaks: There are some localities in Southwest Virginia (and likely elsewhere) that can qualify for all three. Imagine a locality that’s eligible for certain tax breaks under Morefield’s bill. It’s also likely eligible for certain tax breaks under the federal tax bill. And if it has an old school sitting empty, it can declare that a “revitalization zone” under Chafin’s bill — which means an entrepreneur setting up shop there could qualify for yet a third set of tax breaks.

Food stamps cuts will hit rural America the hardest

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 28, 2018

n Owsley County, a 200-square-mile patch of eastern Kentucky, Trump’s victory was propelled by a full 80 percent of the vote—an unsurprising outcome, perhaps, for a county seated in a congressional district that has elected and re-elected Republican representative Hal Rogers by similar margins since 1980. And it might have been equally unsurprising that, when President Trump unveiled his proposed budget for 2019, Rogers was silent on its 10-year $213 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), if not for one thing: nearly half of Owsley County households, and well over a quarter of those in Rogers’ district at large, rely on SNAP to make ends meet. But we still don’t understand some basic facts about the people and the places that make up rural America. This is partially attributable to the destructive cultural and political narratives that tell us programs like SNAP are not a rural issue. The roots of the racist Reagan-era rhetoric on inner city “welfare queens” run deep, and despite being long debunked, one needs to look no further than President Trump’s welfare reform proposals or Speaker Paul Ryan’s comment about the tailspin of “inner-city culture” to know that its legacy lives on. This explains how someone like Hal Rogers can so casually and routinely dismiss the basic needs of such a large segment of his constituency without fear of political blowback or consequence: prevailing perceptions of who relies on America’s social safety net and why have rendered these needs largely invisible. Sixteen percent of households in small towns and rural areas are using SNAP, compared to only thirteen percent of households in urban areas. Though striking, these averages don’t fully convey the critical role that SNAP plays in many rural communities across the country. Our analysis shows that of the 50 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, all but two of them are rural. When we looked at the 150 counties with the highest household SNAP usage, we found that a full 136 are rural.

Opportunity Zones might unblock rural America's potential

Index Journal | Posted on March 28, 2018

Buried more than 300 pages into the late December tax overhaul signed by President Donald Trump is what some officials think might be a route to economic prosperity for rural America. A community development program written into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, these so-called “Opportunity Zones” are designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income areas by providing federal tax incentives. South Carolina is among the first states in the country to submit a list of designees to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, offering 135 such zones — with at least one in each county. Under guidelines of the program, states can identify 25 percent of their low-income Census tracts for inclusion as an “Opportunity Zone.” Anything that local governments can do to facilitate local businesses and encourage private investment into low-to-moderate income areas is always a positive thing. Our recent designation shows how local long-range planning and cooperation between various agencies sets us above other communities in the designation process.

FCC set to waste billions on the wrong rural broadband providers

Daily Yonder | Posted on March 28, 2018

Rural communities have already proven that cooperatives are the way to get good, fast Internet access to underserved areas. So why are AT&T and other big corporations in line to get $2.5 billion in government funding to reach customers – again. The Connect America Fund is the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) effort to connect the unconnected, mostly by throwing billions of dollars to the companies that have most resisted investing in rural areas. AT&T, alone, is getting $2.5 billion over six years from this fund to invest in obsolete connections too slow to meet the FCC’s definition of broadband. Since the creation of the Connect America Fund during President Obama’s first term, its funding schemes and disbursements have disproportionately supported big monopolies over local cooperatives that offer superior services.  

Domestic Migration and Fewer Births Reshaping America

University of New Hampshire, Carsey School | Posted on March 28, 2018

New Census Bureau data released on March 22, 2018, demonstrate the continuing influence of domestic migration on U.S. demographic trends. Migration patterns are reverting to those common before the recession. Suburban counties of large metropolitan areas, smaller metropolitan areas, and rural counties proximate to metropolitan areas all gained more domestic migrants in the last year. In contrast, domestic migration losses grew in the core counties of metropolitan areas of 1 million or more and remained substantial in rural counties that are not adjacent to an urban area. 


Rural Counties Are Making a Comeback, Census Data Shows

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on March 28, 2018

Some long-declining small towns and farming and manufacturing counties are adding people as population growth in large cities cools, according to a Stateline analysis of census estimates released Thursday.  “This seems to be the beginning of a return to population dispersal after a decade or so of clustering into cities and the biggest metropolitan areas,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Steady improvement in the economy and recovering housing markets may be prompting employers and job seekers to look again at areas that were growing before the Great Recession — suburbs, exurbs and small towns, Frey said.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch growing rapidly, study shows

Science Daily | Posted on March 28, 2018

A new study shows that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- and the problem is rapidly getting worse.