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Rural News

As water shortages loom, Wyoming seeks water bank law

Casper Star Tribune | Posted on July 5, 2018

Worried by growing demands and shrinking water supplies in the Colorado River Basin, Wyoming lawmakers are seeking legislation to authorize water banking in Wyoming and declare it a “beneficial use.” The proposed changes to water law could allow Wyoming to “bank” Green River water for the purpose of meeting obligations to downstream states, and in doing so keep the state’s water users from running dry in the event of a shortage.Lawmakers on two legislative committees were briefed recently of looming disruption in the Colorado River Basin due to drought and growing demand. The 1922 Colorado River Compact that determines how the basin’s water is divided among seven western states and Mexico is based on overly rosy assumptions of flows. With Lake Powell at 43 percent of capacity and falling, water managers are nervous.They fear cascading events that could limit water use, curtail power generation, reduce critical electricity revenue and jeopardize endangered species in the region where 40 million people depend on Colorado River Basin water. Flows into Lake Powell in 2018 are expected to be 51 percent of normal and a “structural deficit” is causing Lake Mead to fall at a rate of about 12 feet a year.

The HSUS Wildlife Land Trust: 25 Years of Waste and Pointlessness?

Humane Watch | Posted on July 2, 2018

The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, an affiliate of the D-rated Humane Society of the United States, celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Trust’s goal is to take donated land and “[prohibit] commercial and recreational hunting and trapping, a promise that no other national land conservation organization makes.” In fact, there is good reason to suspect this $12 million organization has a bankrupt track record on conservation. The HSUS Wildlife Land Trust boasts about 20,000 acres of protected land—which is next to nothing to accumulate over two and half decades. In reality, this is very little when compared to other organizations or many of the wildlife refuges in the United States. One of many examples is the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, one of the most important sites for birds in North America, which contains nearly 80,000 acres of land.And just how are the funds being used? A quick look at the Wildlife Land Trust’s 2016 Form 990 (its most recent available) shows that of all its expenses, it is not conservation projects that eat up the lion’s share of the budget.Rather, it is “education,” direct mail, and payroll which come in at a whopping $1,137,267—or 70 percent of the funds spent. It seems the priorities of the Wildlife Land Trust lie more with their headquarters in Washington rather than with meaningful conservation efforts.

Trails connect region yo economic growth

Daily Yonder | Posted on July 2, 2018

Footpaths, bike trails and car tours guide tourists and locals alike through the region’s natural and cultural heritage. The spending that accompanies the use of such trails has helped revive local economies. But wage levels remain a challenge.

Health Needs of Older Rural Immigrants Often Overlooked

Daily Yonder | Posted on July 2, 2018

Health research has focused on younger, urban immigrants, leaving big gaps in knowledge about older, foreign-born residents who live in rural areas.

A tale of two ICE raids

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 28, 2018

What to make of the nearly back-to-back raids at meat plants in Tennessee and Ohio by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? Let's set aside, for a moment, the discussion of the role of undocumented workers in an industry desperate for warm bodies to keep up with demand. They are here illegally, the law says they go back home. These raids set off a firestorm of debate over immigration and employment within the industry. From the perspective of those outside the industry — which is almost everybody — all meat processors look shady. But what are a company's options, if participating in the government's own programs isn't a guarantee? No database as large and far-flung as E-verify or even the IMAGE program is going to be foolproof. But if companies are going to put the time and investment into participating, there ought to be an alternative to the headline-grabbing raids by gun-toting federal officers. i thought it strange, actually, to read the comments under our news coverage of the Ohio raid. They centered on the need to protect our borders at any cost and on welfare reform to get under- and unemployed American workers into the plants, much like the comments that followed our reports on the raid at Southeastern Provision. Nobody mentioned Fresh Mark's efforts to remain on the right side of immigration law. I read the reports and was concerned about federal overreach, a zealous pursuit of immigration enforcement at the expense of fair treatment of employers. 

Our Growing Economy Should Not Leave Rural America Behind

Roll Call | Posted on June 28, 2018

At a basic level, our rural communities — just like cities and suburbs — need job opportunities that retain residents and attract new ones, quality schools, up-to-date infrastructure, accessible and affordable health care, broadband internet, financial institutions that are close by, and affordable housing. How we achieve these goals will require new approaches. We need to level the playing field to help smaller communities compete with larger cities. That means doing more to attract businesses, and encouraging venture funds to invest in startups in rural communities across the country.We need to create pathways that prepare rural Americans for the workforce by promoting middle-skill opportunities in sectors projected to grow, such as health care, technology and clean energy. As just one example, wind turbine service technicians are projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States over the next 10 years, and many of these jobs will be located in rural America. We must also take advantage of new technologies to make higher education more accessible and affordable for rural residents, many of whom don’t have a university or community college within 50 to 100 miles of their homes.

A rural city's aggressive push for more housing

Oregon Business | Posted on June 28, 2018

In rural Oregon, a lack of new and good quality housing hampers economic development in communities that are desperate for investment.   The lack of new housing means rural communities miss out on valuable property taxes that could be used to provide many of the amenities enjoyed by urban residents.   In the small eastern Oregon city of John Day, government officials have a plan to reverse this trend by offering generous financial incentives for new home construction and remodels. John Day, pop. 1,674, currently has 170 acres of underdeveloped land that has almost no tax value. Only three site-built houses have been constructed in the past decade.      To attract developers, the city is offering to pay builders system development charges of $7,400, as well as a 7% cash rebate on new home construction. Property owners that remodel their homes can get a 15% cash rebate based on the increase in the property’s assessed value.For the city to recover its investment, houses have to be located in the urban renewal area encompassing 20% of land scattered throughout the city. The area includes every buildable lot that is zoned residential and approved for development.

Commodity prices decline, farmer suicides rise

Feedstuffs | Posted on June 28, 2018

Ag suicides are the greatest unreported tragedy of its kind in America and around the world. If veteran suicide in America is epidemic, ag suicide is pandemic. Here's the hard data: Suicides among a group labeled Farming/Fishing/Forestry totaled 84.5 per hundred thousand. Far behind in second place was Construction/Extraction at 53.3 per hundred thousand. A few weeks ago, Washington state legislators unanimously passed House Bill 2671 which establishes a pilot program for free suicide prevention for employees of the agriculture industry. It seems to be similar to a proposed nationwide program called the Farm & Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) program that you’ve suggested in the past. Is that state on the leading edge? Should other states consider something similar?A. Yes, the Washington state initiative is modeled after the Sowing the Seeds of Hope project and FRSAN. Minnesota has already implemented a farm crisis hotline that does well-attended community farmer meetings, and visits to farms by trained counselors/business consultants, all funded through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. I've heard that Illinois and Colorado are considering something similar.(Rosmann sent this statement taken from a paper he wrote last year). The Nebraska Rural Response Helpline (1-800-464-0258) is a laudatory example of both governmental and private underwriting of the operation of a particularly useful behavioral health program for farmers and all rural residents of Nebraska. The Helpline depends on an annual state-wide non-tithe church collection, grants from private organizations, and on the Nebraska legislature to cover its costs.All these entities pitch in to support the operation of the statewide telephone and website to offer crisis assistance to Nebraska’s farm and rural populations, along with redeemable vouchers to obtain one or more counseling sessions from professionals who are familiar with agriculture. 

House Proposes Cuts to School Safety, Behavioral Health, Security for Lawmakers Exceeds That For Schools

Roll Call | Posted on June 28, 2018

The House is proposing to cut funding for school safety programs, even as Congress continually increases spending on its own security. Some lawmakers and education advocates question the logic of this amid a nationwide conversation on school security, gun violence and self-harm. The House’s draft fiscal 2019 spending bill to fund the Education and Health and Human Services departments proposes about $110 million in reductions to programs meant to improve school safety and steer behavioral health services toward students.  Compared to a decade ago, programs meant to foster safe school environments have dwindled dramatically. In 2007, federal funding for school safety programs exceeded $600 million. Today, it’s around $400 million, if you include a wide array of broader violent crime reduction grants for local police forces. In comparison, spending on security services for lawmakers is going in the other direction. The Capitol Police budget would exceed $450 million in fiscal 2019 under the House’s Legislative Branch bill, compared to $393 million in fiscal 2017. 


House approves massive bill to fight opioid addiction

Washington Examiner | Posted on June 28, 2018

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation Friday that would give several federal agencies more tools to fight opioid addiction and death in the U.S., and open the door to more treatment and prevention for the public. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act passed in an easy 396-14 vote following months of hearings and debate. The legislation helps to direct some of the $4 billion in funding for the crisis that Congress approved as part of a long-term spending deal this year. The sweeping bill contains provisions to improve access to addiction treatment, block illegal drugs such as fentanyl from entering the U.S., clear the way for more research on nonaddictive medications to treat pain and reduce the number painkiller prescriptions. It also places new regulations on the ways Medicare and Medicaid are involved in both treatment of pain and addiction. For example, the bill instructs federal offices to evaluate the use of telehealth in addiction treatment under Medicare, and requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to issue guidance on how to treat infants who were exposed to opioids while in the womb and developed a dependency on the drug.