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Rural News

Rural Mainstreet Index at Highest Level in Almost 5 Years

| Posted on June 21, 2018

For a fourth straight month the overall index rose above growth neutral. On average, bankers expect farm loan defaultsto rise by only 3.0 percent over the next 12 months. • Over the past year, average annual cash rents on farmland declined by 3.0 percent to $239 per acre. More than one-third of bank CEOs identified rising regulatory costs as the top economic challenge to their banking operations over the next five years. The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index climbed above growth neutral in May for a fourth straight month, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy. This is the first time since the July 2015 that we have recorded four straight months of overall indices above growth neutral. bank CEOs identified rising regulatory costs as the top economic challenge to their banking operations over the next five years. Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for May declined to 42.2 from April’s 42.9. This is the 54th straight month the index has fallen below growth neutral 50.0.

Investing in Rural America

Joint Economic Committee | Posted on June 21, 2018

Senate and House Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday released a report, "Investing in Rural America," on the needs of rural America and promised to push congress to invest more in rural areas.In a call to reporters, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, "Many rural communities are still recovering from the Great Recession, more than 10 years after it hit us. Millions of rural residents lack reliable access to broadband. The rural population is aging and shrinking, and wages have been stuck for too long. But rather than run from these challenges, we need to tackle them head on."Heinrich said rural communities are leading the way in renewable energy production, outdoor recreation opportunities and boast some of the smallest class sizes and highest levels of parent engagement in K-12 education.But he said there needs to be more investment in infrastructure, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges and increased access to early learning and post-secondary school options."But to turn ideas into action and to improve the lives of the 46 million Americans who live in rural communities, we will need bipartisan efforts," Heinrich said. "I hope this report can serve as a spark, to attract folks on both sides of the aisle to invest in rural communities."

What the U.S. Could Learn from Australia about Financing Infrastructure

University of Pennsylvania | Posted on June 21, 2018

As an Australian, I’ve have been resisting the temptation these past few months to react to the Trump Administration’s big infrastructure plans with “The U.S. could learn a lot from my country.” The international comparison gambit rarely works well in America, and I don’t want to appear too parochial. But I have learned a lot from the Australian example, and I think now is the time to share, as the Trump Administration pursues a plan of federal infrastructure investment intended to stimulate state, local and private investments. These events reinforced the three core truths about infrastructure:Building first-rate infrastructure — roads, bridges, ports, high-speed rail, airports, power grids, cell phone networks and fiber optic cables — is essential to realizing the full potential of all economies.The sheer scale of the global infrastructure challenge is so enormous that the only possible way to meet it is to find a much bigger role for the private sector.Savvy governments can ensure that increasing the role of the private sector in infrastructure furthers their mission of serving the broad needs of society.

USDA Launches Interactive Map of Opioid Epidemic Resources

USDA | Posted on June 20, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive feature on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural opioid misuse webpage. Now webpage visitors can use an interactive map to learn about, access or replicate actions rural leaders are taking in small towns across the country to address the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery opportunities. The interactive map can be viewed at

Florida lawmakers wrongly diverted money meant for conservation, judge rules

Orlando Sentinel | Posted on June 20, 2018

State lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands, a judge ruled. Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with environmental groups in the lawsuit centered on whether lawmakers defied the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative by improperly diverting portions of the money to such expenses as staffing. Legislative leaders have repeatedly disputed such allegations as they continued to make such budget allocations. Attorney David Guest — representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller — called Dodson’s Friday bench ruling a “100 percent victory.” “The people of Florida voted with a firm, clear voice. And the court said today that counts,” Guest said after the hearing. “The Legislature has to comply with the law like everybody else.”

Nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045

The Acadiana Advocate | Posted on June 20, 2018

By 2045, nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic disruptive flooding caused by sea level rise.   The report says nearly 99,000 people could be affected by floods that would happen 26 times a year or more. The value of the homes affected by the flooding is pegged at nearly $4.3 billion, contributing $36 million in property taxes. Louisiana faces an additional problem: the number of poor people who live in homes at risk of flooding. The report notes that in Houma and Bayou Cane, where chronic flooding could wipe out up to 25 percent of the property tax base, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 residents live in poverty. More than 10,000 homes out of nearly 36,000 in Terrebonne Parish could be affected. “Renters too might find themselves in a tight market or having to put up with decaying buildings and increased nuisance flooding,” Cleetus said. “Hits to the property tax base in low-income communities, which already experience significant under-investment in critical services and infrastructure, could prove especially challenging.”

As Rural Towns Lose Population, They Can Learn To 'Shrink Smart'

NPR | Posted on June 20, 2018

Population loss like Sheffield's is happening in small towns across the U.S. "The big picture for all rural communities that don't have a connection to a growing metro area is that they are going to get smaller over time," says Kimberly Zarecor, associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University. Zarecor argues that towns like Sheffield shouldn't spend money trying to lure new residents to shore up their population numbers. She says instead, they should focus on making life better for the residents they still have. In fact, she's devoting a lot of her energy to the cause she calls "The Shrink Smart Project." Peters says they're conducting surveys to figure out how some remote small towns are already making residents' life better, even as their populations drain away. He says there are some standouts — such as Sac City, Iowa, whose population is estimated at 2,105 and falling. The numbers are down by a third since a farm equipment manufacturer closed its factory there in the 1980s.

Michigan now has nation's toughest rules for lead in drinking water

Detroit Free Press | Posted on June 20, 2018

Michigan  began enforcing the nation's strictest rules for lead in drinking water, a plan that eventually will result in replacing all 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the wake of the contamination of Flint's supply.The lead and copper rules will drop the "action level" for lead from 15 parts per billion, the federal limit, to 12 in 2025. Underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings will be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take longer under a broader plan to repair and replace its water infrastructure. The rules also will prohibit the partial replacement of lead service pipes except for emergency repairs; require preliminary and final inventories of the lines and other components of a water supply by 2020 and 2025; and ensure samples are taken at the highest-risk sites and with methods designed to more accurately detect lead.

Many Recommend Teaching Mental Health in Schools. Now Two States Will Require It.

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on June 20, 2018

Amid sharply rising rates of teen suicide and adolescent mental illness, two states have enacted laws that for the first time require public schools to include mental health education in their basic curriculum.Most states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex.Two states are going further: New York’s new law adds mental health instruction to the list in kindergarten through 12th grade; Virginia requires it in ninth and 10th grades.Nationwide, cities and states have been adopting a variety of initiatives over the past decade to address the rising need for mental health care in schools.But until this year, mandated mental health education had not been part of the trend.

H7N9 could be next deadly pandemic

Newsweek | Posted on June 18, 2018

A deadly new strain of bird flu threatens to become a worldwide pandemic, health officials warn. Britain’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam says the strain, which has already killed one-third of infected patients in China, could be the feared Disease X, an unknown pathogen that could cause an international health crisis. The H7N9 avian flu virus has infected 1,600 people and killed more than 600 in China since October 2016. Most of the infected came in contact with contaminated poultry, the World Health Organization said. The virus didn’t infect humans until 2013, when it was first discovered in China. After sporadic outbreaks over five years, its spread has reached critical mass: The Centers for Disease Control said it has the “greatest potential to cause a pandemic” of all human viruses.