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Rural News

Obamacare Saved This Woman’s Life—and Her Farm

Mother Jones | Posted on August 3, 2017

After battling two brain tumors and breast cancer, Tina Hinchley still milks 130 cows twice a day. Not many people have jobs that are as physically demanding as Tina Hinchley’s. With her husband and four children, Hinchley, 51, milks 130 cows twice a day and works the corn and soybean fields on her family’s 2,500-acre farm in southeastern Wisconsin. To keep things running smoothly, Hinchley says the whole family needs to be healthy and strong. But like everyone else, sometimes farmers get sick.But Hinchley’s symptoms got so bad that she could no longer work in the barn, so her children had to pick up the slack, each of them milking dozens of cows before catching the school bus at 6:45 a.m. When she finally went to the clinic, the doctor immediately ordered CT scan, which revealed a brain tumor. She was scheduled for surgery right away. The surgeon removed the tumor, which turned out to be benign. But then the bill came: $187,000. Hinchley and her husband thought that maybe they would have to sell off their land. They ultimately scraped by, but Hinchley worried constantly. “When we don’t have health care, it’s scary,” she told me. “There is always the fear of: ‘If something happens, we could lose the farm.'”So in 2012, when the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Hinchley signed up for insurance right away.That decision may have saved her life. In 2013, Hinchley was diagnosed with another benign brain tumor as well as breast cancer. It was an extremely difficult time for the family, but having health insurance lightened the burden. “It was just an ease,” Hinchley said.

A Bipartisan Health Care Fix? Governors Have Some Ideas

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 2, 2017

The apparent demise of the Republican drive to scrap the Affordable Care Act may open the door to bipartisan fixes to the law. If it does, some of the proposals being touted by a bipartisan group of governors may get a hearing on Capitol Hill. The seven Democrats and six Republican governors who crafted the proposals want federal money to stabilize the ACA’s health insurance marketplaces, and greater power to manage them. They argue it should be easier for states to customize Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance for the poor, and they want new tools to curb fast-rising drug prices. And they insist that states should continue to regulate the health policies sold within their borders.“We didn’t intend this to be a political statement, other than to say to Washington, ‘Here’s information, look at where there is agreement,’” said Paul Edwards, deputy chief of staff to Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, one of the governors who helped devise the health care proposals.   Not all the proposals are new, but they are likely to carry weight because of their source. The National Governors Association assembled the group in March and it released its ideas in June.

Yellowstone Grizzlies Removed From Threatened Species List

US News and World Report | Posted on August 2, 2017

The U.S. government lifted protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region on Monday, though it will be up to the courts to decide whether the revered and fearsome icon of the West stays off the threatened species list.More than a month after announcing grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park are no longer threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially handed over management of the approximately 700 bears living across 19,000 square miles (49,210 sq. kilometers) in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to wildlife officials in those states.The ruling does not apply to the approximately 1,000 bears living farther north in the Northern Continental Divide area that includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.Not much is expected to immediately change as a result of the handover. State wildlife officials have been working for decades to protect the bears as their population grows and their range expands farther away from the oldest U.S. national park, and they say they will continue to do so.Federal wildlife officials will also monitor the states for five years and re-impose protections if the population drops below 500 bears.

Georgia sees some progress on rural broadband

Ledger Enquirer | Posted on August 2, 2017

Last year there was a study committee on rural broadband issues and the growing digital divide facing our state. Residents of metro Atlanta and other densely populated parts of the state don’t witness this problem. Those living in rural Georgia too frequently deal with internet service that is slow, unreliable, or nonexistent.  The main work of the committee was to identify that there are really several major problems under the rural broadband umbrella. Access to service, speed of service, reliability of service, cost of service, and regulatory barriers impeding delivery of service are all subtopics worthy of understanding before any solution set is found.There also remains a question of the proper government role in solving this problem. Purists would suggest that the market will eventually self-correct. The problem with that frame of mind is that an entire generation of Georgians may lose out on education, commerce, and employment opportunities before economies of scale allow for modern broadband service to be deployed throughout the state. The problems of rural broadband deployment continue to be studied by legislators, this year under the much broader “Rural Development Council.” Broadband is being looked at as in context with economic development, education, rural healthcare, and other issues unique to the less developed parts of the state. The point is that all of these issues are interconnected, and solutions for one often depend on solutions for others.

Neighbors in a small Colorado town are splintered, but neither are correct.

High Country News | Posted on August 2, 2017

The political right and left are stuck in polarizing myths. Folks in my small Western town are divided: die-hard right-wingers on one side and so-called progressives on the other. But both appear to support those “deregistering” from the list of eligible voters for fear of federal intervention in what is a state right.  I see the hard-right folks in Safeway carrying pistols. Both are likely influenced by the myths of the Old West, either consciously or unconsciously. And both are dropping off the voting rolls at an alarming rate; somewhere around 3,000 have deregistered in Colorado so far.Neither group wants President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission to know anything about them. They don’t want it known that they’re registered to vote, or what party they belong to, and they clearly don’t want to have their Social Security number put in some insecure database. Both are alarmed and suspicious that the Trump administration’s commission is really designed to suppress voter turnout.I know some of the “hard right, anti-federal” folks.  It’s a small town and we tend to know one another. Usually, we can all be cordial at break time at a city council meeting.

WV agriculture commissioner revives advisory board

West Virginia Gazette Mail | Posted on August 1, 2017

The state Commissioner of Agriculture is bringing back the West Virginia Agriculture Advisory Board with the goal of setting up a strategic plan to revitalize production in the state. Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said though the board is required to meet quarterly under state code, neither he nor his staffers can remember this going on whatsoever. The board will consist of the commissioner, the governor and the director of the cooperative extension service of West Virginia University. The board will also appoint a steering committee to further its goals.

Lawmaker say electric cooperatives could fill broadband gaps

Dalton Daily Citizen | Posted on August 1, 2017

A north Georgia lawmaker says he thinks electric cooperatives could be a key player in filling the broadband coverage gaps in the state’s underserved rural communities.But Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he doesn’t expect everyone under the Gold Dome to be quite so enthused by a plan to turn loose cooperatives to offer broadband. Gooch said he expects existing providers, in particular, to push back on the proposal. “It’s going to be a fight,” Gooch said in a recent interview. “I don’t think it’s going to be easy. But again, nothing down there ever is. With anything this important, there’s going to be people who are against it because of self-motives and financial reasons.“And I’m fine with that. I love to debate, and in fact, I challenge all the providers to come in and get involved and help us perfect the bill,” he added.Gooch pitched a measure earlier this year that would grant the state’s 41 not-for-profit electric membership corporations, which serve about 2 million customers, the authority to offer broadband service in some of the state’s most sparsely populated places.His measure stalled but remains alive for next year when lawmakers return.“They already have the customers, the equipment, the manpower. They have the poles already in place,” he said of the EMCs.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anne Hazlett

USDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

First and foremost, I want to assist Secretary Perdue in executing his vision for creating an environment where rural communities can prosper.   In that, I am specifically focused on taking action to improve the quality of life in rural America-- from greater access to broadband connectivity and medical care to distance learning.  Two issues that I am particularly passionate about are leadership and capacity development in small towns and assisting rural communities in responding to the growing nightmare of opioid misuse and the many underlying challenges that have contributed to this issue. Beyond these external goals, I would like to foster greater synergy between Rural Development and the other mission areas in USDA as well as other partners focused on rural programs within the federal family.  For example, how can Rural Development work more closely with other agencies to address challenges like food insecurity and child summer hunger.

The cost of doing away with USDA Rural Development

Nevada Appeal | Posted on August 1, 2017

Over the years, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants and loans have served as a lifeline for rural communities, providing critical funding for water and wastewater infrastructure, public and community buildings, and essential community service facilities. Yet the president's proposed budget zeros out allocations for Rural Development, leaving small towns with few options and bleak prospects for continued growth. Without Rural Development's services, many small communities will have to put off infrastructure or facility projects. However, "the cost of doing nothing is as costly as the project itself," said Terry Meier, community development specialist with JEO Consulting Group.When necessary projects are left on the drawing board, the quality of life in a small town is impacted along with its economic prospects.Rural Development's loans, grants, and technical assistance help communities fill resource gaps and address quality of life challenges. Funding opportunities are primarily directed toward towns and villages with fewer than 20,000 residents.

In the heart of Appalachia’s opioid epidemic, a sliver of hope

Pittsburgh Post Gazette | Posted on July 31, 2017

For three years, Leon and Donita Brush struggled to help their son Brian beat his opioid addiction. What began with a pill quickly spiraled out of control. A 20-year-old college student, Brian was reeling from a breakup when someone offered him Percocet to ease the emotional pain, his father said.“He just said, ‘Dad, there was no turning back. Once I started down that path, I wanted more,’” Mr. Brush said.The owner of a carpet and flooring store in this small city in southern West Virginia — in the heart of the opioid epidemic that kills hundreds annually in the state — Mr. Brush didn’t know much about addiction treatment. But he and his wife were committed to getting their son sober.They tried a 28-day rehab program. They sought help from the regional mental health center. They sent him to “Grandpa’s bootcamp.” They did private counseling. They enrolled him in the U.S. Army. Nothing worked.Brian fatally overdosed in January 2006. He was 23 years old.“Donita and I were sitting in the living room and she said to me, ‘You know, there ought to be a safe place where men can go and learn to deal with addiction, where the cops can’t capture them, where the drug dealers can’t phone them and so moms can sleep at night.’ I said, ‘Are you serious about that?’ She said, ‘Yes.’”The Brushes consulted with their pastor and visited a range of addiction treatment centers to find the right model. Two years later, they opened a 12-month residential addiction treatment program. It was the rehab they had never been able to provide for their son. Named Brian’s Safehouse, it has become a sliver of hope in a region eviscerated by addiction. Unlike most of the addiction clinics dotting Raleigh County, which prescribe methadone and Suboxone, Brian’s Safehouse uses a nonmedical approach. The 12-step treatment program, which is spread out over the course of a year, challenges residents to accept their own weakness and surrender to a new order in life: God first, sobriety second. After that, Mr. Brush said, everything else falls into place.“Our focus primarily is not so much about drugs as it is about the life-controlling issues that got them here to start with,” he said. “We deal with anger. We deal with the victim’s mentality. We deal with how to know who is safe and who isn’t. We deal with boundaries.”