–The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released the January Manufacturing Survey today. According to Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the survey revealed that Tenth District manufacturing activity continued to expand moderately with strong expectations for future activity. “We had another solid composite index reading in January, and firms’ expectations for future activity were the highest in more than twelve years,” said Wilkerson. The January survey incorporates new seasonal adjustment factors, so historical indexes differ slightly from previously-released numbers. The new seasonal factors will be used throughout 2017.
Maine is the most rural state in the country, but it doesn’t have an organization devoted solely to helping rural communities. There are various groups focused on particular aspects of rural development but not one to tie all the efforts together, even as rural parts of the state continue to struggle with population and job losses. Maine could look to a neighbor and nearly equally rural state, Vermont, to see what a centralized body dedicated to tackling uniquely rural challenges has done for the state’s communities. Since 1992, the Vermont Council on Rural Development has helped communities identify their goals and create plans to achieve them, and connected them with potential funding sources and expert advice. “We don’t come in with our own agenda. It’s about helping communities become collective teams for action,” said Paul Costello, who has served as the executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development since 2000. He will give the keynote address at a summit called Rural Maine’s Next Economy on Friday, Feb. 10, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Vermont council starts the community-building process with public forums where residents and local leaders can share their general ideas for directions for the town. After organizing the ideas into themes, the larger community comes together, often in a town-meeting style gathering where the council can put the big ideas up on the wall and ask residents about their priorities.
Attorneys representing Broward County homeowners are demanding the state pay a $20 million judgment for tearing down healthy citrus trees in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker. The legal battle could set a precedent that might spread to four other counties and increase the final bill to $200 million.
Rural OmniLocal. Instead of waiting for customers to walk in the front door, smart rural businesses are using the same omni channel tactics as big businesses. In order to reach more than just the local customers in their small towns, rural businesses are selling via their own websites, platforms like Amazon or Etsy, custom apps, automated deliveries and monthly subscription boxes. Independent Workforce. Contingent workers, independent professionals, are all converging as more people make their own way while staying rural, rather than moving to the big city for jobs. Because rural independent workers have a lower cost of living than urban ones, they are better able to compete in digital talent marketplaces. Innovative Rural Business Models. Small town businesses are not just the mom-and-pop retail store downtown. Other innovations are also taking hold. Smaller business experiments are replacing all-in bets on a full-size business, maybe filling only a couple of hundred square feet instead of 5,000 square feet. Local Stores Beat Big Boxes. Big box stores are tipping into a scale implosion of their own making, as they close stores, shed square footage and generally try to adjust to a retail future that is splitting around them. Their special skill used to be the huge selection and low price. The other side is the return to customer service, curated selections and the enjoyment of shopping. That is where local retail eats their lunch. Local Stores Beat Online — For Some Things.
A recent study (Income Trends for Iowa Farms and Farm Families 2003-2015) by David Peters, associate professor and extension rural sociologist with Iowa State University, summarized current trends in farm income by type of farm operation and pointed to more specific issues regarding the importance of non-farm income to the financial picture of farm households. The study pointed out that net farm income has dropped the past three years for commercial farms. However, for intermediate farms in Iowa, “incomes have rebounded after several years of stagnation.” And residence farms have experienced only a minor decline in net farm income, “down 1.1 percent from 2012 levels.” The study pointed out that, “Despite farming being the major occupation of the operator, off-farm earnings were the major source of income for intermediate farm families. Near the conclusion of the Iowa State study, Dr. Peters pointed out that, “A struggling farm economy only highlights the need for non-farm employment opportunities for all farm families. Middle-skill and middle-wage jobs are the key underpinnings of a strong non-farm rural economy in Iowa. These include traditional ‘blue collar’ industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation, and utilities; but also some ‘white collar’ sectors like healthcare and education that employ many middle-skill professionals.
One of the last hurdles in Nebraska's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is helping veterinarians find a way to participate to help prevent people from abusing narcotics prescribed for animals.The program was set up to prevent abuse of prescription painkillers and sedatives that can cause addiction, misuse and death from overdose. Nebraska was one of the last states to implement a functional prescription drug monitoring program, with the Legislature getting it done last year. On Jan. 1, dentists, pharmacists, some doctors and anyone else who dispenses prescription drugs began reporting each day all narcotic drug prescriptions dispensed within the state or to Nebraska addresses. The monitoring program stores the information in a secure database and makes it available to health care professionals. Veterinarians, who can be authorized by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to dispense certain narcotic painkillers, were exempted from that requirement until Jan. 1, 2018. But the Nebraska Veterinary Medicine Association sought to have participation delayed to 2019, and Omaha Sen. Bob Krist introduced a bill to do that earlier this month.
Like many small communities, Keota, Iowa, faces some challenges. But the idea that they aren’t big enough to take on large projects isn’t one of them. At least not any more. Business operator Melinda Eakins describes what it took for her community to “Get It Done.”
Chronic wasting disease, a fatal brain condition, has been detected in Texas free-ranging white-tailed deer for the first time. The white-tailed buck that tested positive for the disease was found in Medina County, Texas - just west San Antonio.
Americans are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Nationwide, the mortality rate from drug poisoning, alcohol poisoning, and suicide increased by 52 percent between 2000 and 2014. Most of this increase was driven by a surge in prescription opioid and heroin overdoses, but overdoses from other drugs, suicides by means other than drugs, and alcohol-induced deaths also increased over this period. Between 2010 and 2014, drugs, alcohol, or suicide were the underlying cause of death for 537,000 people and were contributing factors in an additional 133,000 deaths. Especially striking is that mortality from drugs, alcohol, and suicide has increased during a period of declining mortality for other major causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, most cancers, and motor vehicle accidents.
“All of a sudden, rural is on everyone’s mind,” said Kai A. Schafft, director of the Center on Rural Education and Communities at Penn State, adding that November’s vote amplified the plight of people who had heretofore been “pretty systematically ignored, dismissed or passed over.” That’s partly because, while the federal government labels 72 percent of the nation’s land area “rural,” it is home to only 14 percent of the population, and rural schools educate just 18 percent of the nation’s public school students. Locales designated as rural have higher poverty rates and lower education levels than those labeled urban, suburban or town.
To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don’t typically attract agriculture majors. Rural students, said Adam Sapp, admissions director at Pomona College, have “a different understanding of complicated political and social issues,” offering “one more lens through which to see a problem.”