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Rural News

Wisconsin’s catastrophic flooding is a glimpse of the Midwest’s drenched future

Grist | Posted on September 13, 2018

An entire summer’s worth of rain has fallen across a broad swath of the Midwest in recent days. The resulting record floods have wrecked homes and altered the paths of rivers, in one case destroying a waterfall in Minnesota. The worst-affected region, southwest Wisconsin, has received more than 20 inches of rain in 15 days– more than it usually gets in six months.Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared a statewide emergency last week, mobilizing the Wisconsin National Guard to assist flood victims if necessary. The Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin rose to record levels — as high as six feet above the previous high water mark — producing damage that local emergency management officials described as “breathtaking.”In the tiny Wisconsin town of Gays Mills, this is the third catastrophic flood in 10 years. After floods a decade ago, about a quarter of the residents left, and the town was partially rebuilt on higher ground. But this time around is even worse — with almost every home in the town damaged.Is there a connection to climate change? Well, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and the region’s main moisture source — the Gulf of Mexico — has reached record-warm levels in recent years, helping to spur an increase in precipitation intensity. Since the 1950s, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest storms has increased by 37 percent in the Midwest.But there’s more to it than that. Decades of development have also paved over land that used to soak up rainwater. Earlier this year, Wisconsin took controversial steps to loosen restrictions on lakeside development.


At N.H. Border Checkpoints, Immigration, Drug Policy and Politics Collide

New Hampshire Public Radio | Posted on September 13, 2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been running checkpoints in New Hampshire more frequently under the Trump administration, setting up on Interstate 93 near the small towns of Woodstock and Lincoln. The stated goal of these stops is enforcing immigration law, and to that end, they have been fairly successful. Agents have arrested more than 50 people over the past two years who they determined to be in the country illegally. But those in support of the stops are often quick to turn attention to a topic other than immigration: drugs and the state’s opioid crisis.Here in New Hampshire, despite the political divide on immigration issues, checkpoints are broadly accepted by at least one measure. Roughly 70 percent of residents said they supported the stops as a check on immigration, and to investigate potential drug smuggling, in a survey conducted last year by researchers at the University of New Hampshire.


Millennials put pets first when buying a home

CNBC | Posted on September 6, 2018

A full 73 percent of millennials currently own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. A whopping 89 percent of millennials who bought a home so far this year own a pet, according to Realtor.com.For this demographic, 79 percent of pet-owning homebuyers who closed on a property this year said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn't meet the needs of their pets, according to a Realtor.com survey.


Closing the digital and economic divides in rural America

Brookings | Posted on September 6, 2018

These experiences of rural Americans highlight the need for expanded universal service programs, like the Lifeline program, that provide discounted communications services to eligible, low-income populations. The program was established by the FCC during the Reagan administration in 1985, but recent efforts by the agency to apply stricter scrutiny on eligibility criteria and to limit the program benefits will greatly affect the Mulgrave family and so many others like them who struggle to maintain this required service.


Economic Returns to Rural Infrastructure Investments

Farm Foundation | Posted on September 6, 2018

Farm Foundation has released six papers commissioned to examine specific issues critical to rural infrastructure development. Understanding the economic returns on investing in rural infrastructure improvements is a critical element in the decision-making process for public and private investors. “As the nation addresses rural infrastructure needs, it is vital that public and private decision makers have the best information possible on the economic and social returns of their investments,” says Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman. “These papers begin to fill that need by examining some of the diverse issues in measuring returns of rural infrastructure investments.” Economically Efficient Composition of Rural Infrastructure Investment:  Mark Burton, Ph.D., of the University of Tennessee and Wesley W. Wilson, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon, provide an economic explanation for why public-sector infrastructure investments are economically-efficient public policy. The authors also describe why many necessary investments must be sited in and/or available to rural communities.


USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.


USDA Launches Webpage Highlighting Resources to Help Rural Communities Bridge the Broadband e-Connectivity Infrastructure Gap

USDA | Posted on September 6, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today unveiled a new webpage featuring information about the importance of rural e-Connectivity and the ways the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing to help deploy high-speed broadband infrastructure in rural America. “Rural high-speed broadband e-Connectivity is as important for economic development as rail, roads, bridges and airports – and as vital as the buildouts of rural telephone networks were decades ago,” Perdue said. “USDA is committed to being a strong partner with rural leaders in deploying this essential infrastructure.”Reliable and affordable high-speed internet e-Connectivity acts as a catalyst for rural prosperity by enabling efficient, modern communications between rural American households, farms, ranches, businesses, schools and health care centers. Yet, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 80 percent of the 24 million Americans who lack broadband access live in rural areas and on tribal lands.USDA plays an important role in helping rural communities bridge this infrastructure gap through program investment, strategic partnerships and best practice implementation by investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure. This new website will provide direct access to information on our decades-long programs that offer more than $700 million per year for modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. In the coming months, USDA will almost double these longstanding programs with an additional $600 million to expand rural broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands.


In a changing climate, will fire make a bigger run in Washington’s west-side forests?

The Seattle Times | Posted on September 6, 2018

The findings, detailed in a study that he led, show that trees had yet to return to some of the driest edges of burn zones, which were dominated by shrubs and grasses. In other areas, trees did take root, but there were fewer of them than in moister, cooler times.On the east side, in forests dominated by thick-barked ponderosa pine, low-intensity fires in centuries past often came every five to 30 years, clearing out brush and small trees. In the 20th century, decades of human intervention, in the form of fire suppression, sometimes squelched that natural fire cycle, allowing big buildups of fuel. In recent years, restoration efforts are aimed at bringing those forests back to a more natural balance.But wetter forests, such as the stand torched in the Norse Peak blaze, have a very different relationship with fire. They burn infrequently but the toll on the trees often is severe. Trying to head off these fires would require thinning these public lands every decade or so, and that would change the natural character of these lands in what Franklin calls a “fool’s exercise.”There also are benefits to these west-side fires, which Franklin says can act as powerful sources of forest renewal.


What Are the Most-Googled Wildlife Photos in Your State?

Live Science | Posted on September 6, 2018

Are people more captivated by deadly local snakes, carnivorous mammals or venomous spiders? It depends on where people live, according to new data from Google showing the top image searches for bugs and wild animals, state by state in the U.S.


Georgia's Lt Governor Candidate raises rural hospitals as campaign issue

Daily Yonder | Posted on September 6, 2018

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, Sarah Riggs Amico, has raised rural hospital closures as a campaign issue.  “There are 60 counties in Georgia without a pediatrician, half of our counties don’t have an OB/GYN, & rural hospitals are closing,” she stated in an Aug. 20 tweet. She criticized state lawmakers for failing to expand the number of people covered by Medicaid, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.  “… [O]ur current state lawmakers sent back $33 [billion] in your federal tax dollars –money Georgia had already paid in — because they wanted to play politics.” Amico, a business owner, faces Republican Geoff Duncan, a former state representative, in the race for lieutenant governor. 


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