Mid-sized farmers are stuck in the middle – too conventional and “toxic” for the foodies, too small to matter to Big Ag corporations. How do you participate in the food debate without becoming part of the menu? Or, with friends like these, who needs aliens?
Housing programs in USDA Rural Development appear to be on a glide path to elimination, says this analysis from advocates at the Housing Assistance Council. The Obama administration's proposed budget for next year continues the downward funding trend.
One more rural population story: The loss of nonmetro population in the last three years has been the result of migration, not births and deaths. That means rural populations could recover – if the economy does.
Tomorrow New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman hosts a filled-to-capacity event at the Cooper Union, with writers Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, on the future of agriculture. Does that future include farmers from “deep rural” America who produce the nation’s dairy and grain? An Upstate New York farmer and lawyer says it’s time for small commodity farmers to start telling their own stories. Here’s how to do it.
The nation’s most rural counties saw a drop of about 36,000 residents from 2012 to 2013, according to new Census estimates. It's a very small number as a percentage of the overall rural population, but it's the second straight year rural population has fallen.
Fifty years after its publication, Ken Kesey’s novel Sometimes a Great Notion still raises fundamental questions about life in rural America. Do we hang together or hang separately? And are those the only choices?
If Bundy’s reasoning somehow holds up under scrutiny, I’ll have to change my tactics when dealing with meter maids. “I’m sorry, officer, I would pay the fee but I’ve been parking my car here since long before there were meters.”
- Shawn Poynter
Mourners will gather Thursday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to refute the proverb that a prophet is not without honor except in her home town.
Pat Gish, part of the team that published the nationally recognized weekly newspaper The Mountain Eagle, will be memorialized at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church 1 p.m. Thursday. Gish died Sunday at the age of 87.
Pat Gish and her husband, Tom, who died in 2008, published the Eagle for more than half a century, taking on government corruption and revealing the ravages of strip mining, while at the same time printing school menus and civic-club news.
At Tom’s 2008 memorial, the minister spoke of the difficulties Tom faced locally because of the way the paper took on some local leaders and questioned the power of the coal industry. The minister used the proverb about “a prophet in his own land” to explain Tom’s important and complex role in Letcher County.
It’s true that Pat and Tom weren’t always honored locally, especially by corrupt politicians, coal bosses and the people who depended on those folks for their daily bread. It’s also true that the Gish’s brand of journalism was prophetic, especially when you look at how their concerns about the environmental and political consequences of coal mining have played out.
The Center for Public Integrity wins a well-deserved Pulitzer for its investigation of the corrupt black-lung benefits program. But the political leaders who claim to be on the side of coal miners should have been paying attention long before the reporters made a national story out this disgraceful state of affairs.
ABC News produced this report with the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) on the role of Johns Hopkins doctors in refuting miners' black-lung claims. CPI won a Pulitzer Prize this week for their series on black lung.
I have mixed emotions over the Center for Public Integrity’s winning of their first Pulitzer Prize for the investigative report by Chris Hamby on black lung.
The series focused on the southern West Virginia coalfields and miners who are suffering and dying from black lung, while the top lawyers, doctors, coal operators and hospitals are paying big bucks to each other to defeat these sick and voiceless miners and their families.
The people of the southern West Virginia coalfields owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Hamby, the Center for Public Integrity, ABC News and others for taking on what no one inside the region has been able to do – tell the world that the Appalachian coalfields are corrupt.
Workers like black lung attorney John Cline of Piney View, West Virginia, Dr. Donald Rasmussen of Beckley and many others have worked tirelessly to help these miners suffering from black lung in the face of this powerful and corrupt opposition.
The least populated rural counties have a jobless rate more than 1 point above the metro average. A slight improvement in unemployment over the year comes mainly from a decline in workers, not an increase in jobs.
Bureau of Labor Statistics/Daily YonderThe map shows change in unemployment rates for nonmetro counties from February 2013 to February 2014. Green and blue counties improved. Red and orange counties worsened. Metro counties are gray. Click the map for an interactive version.
Unemployment in rural America ticked up between January and February of this year, with the nation’s least populated counties experiencing the worst jobless rates, according to the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unemployment in noncore counties (the most rural) climbed from 7.9% in January to 8.6% in February.
Micropolitan counties (those with towns between 10,000 and 50,000 residents) saw their unemployment rates rise from 7.4% in January to 8% in February.
The unemployment rate in metropolitan counties (those around cities of 50,000 residents and up) increased from 6.9% to 7.4%.
During the early years of the recession, which began in late 2007, rural areas often had lower unemployment rates than cities. In the last few years, however, unemployment rates in rural America have surpassed those in metropolitan counties.
In February of this year, the unemployment rate in the noncore counties was more than a full percentage point higher than in metro counties — 8.6% compared to 7.4%.
In the last year, the unemployment rate in these counties has barely budged, dropping from 8.9% last February to only 8.6% this February.
Betting on coal in Mississippi • Additional safety for gas and oil workers not needed, says oil firms • Texas slow to introduce safety regulations for handling fertilizer • India's urbanization slowing • Rural homeless vets face unique challenges
Photo by Gary Tramontina/BloombergConstruction has begun on the nation's priciest coal plant near Meridian, Mississippi.
Mississippi is betting on a new way to process coal, and they’re betting big. Huge, in fact. Construction is underway for the costliest power plant ever built in the U.S. Way over its initial $1.8 billion, the new estimate for the completed project is $5.8 billion. That’s $6,800/kilowatt compared to $1,000/kilowatt for a natural gas burning plant.
The builders of the plant, the Southern Company, say it will use cutting edge technology to extract nitrogen and hydrogen, which will then be burned to produce low-cost electricity. Skeptics say the technology won’t work and point to the fact that natural gas is already a low-cost power solution.
One hundred thirty-eight oil and gas workers died on the job in 2012. Yet requiring additional federal work-safety regulations would be “like prescribing painkillers for a paper cut,” says an Oklahoma City oil executive.
Oil and gas wells are exempt from “process safety management standards,” which the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration applies to other industries. Oil field deaths reached a 10-year high in 2012 as production increased.
Oil and gas extraction workers have a fatality rate of 24.2 per 100,000 workers. That’s 1400% higher than the chemical manufacturing death rate of 1.7, according to data from Texas A&M.
OSHA tried to expand worker safety of oil and gas workers in the 1990s but backed down. The agency is looking at its rules again.
The Houston Chronicle reports that more than a dozen oil companies and trade groups oppose the proposed rule changes.
When corporations failed to invest adequately in better broadband service for Montrose, residents of the Colorado city decided the service was too important to leave to chance. They voted 3 to 1 to allow the city to play a bigger role in financing and building critical elements of a faster, more accessible network. Their goal is to become one of a handful of gigabit cities in the U.S.
Leaders of Montrose, Colorado, a city of 19,000 on the Western Slope, think their economic future is tied to faster Internet connections. Colorado law required citizens to vote in support of municipal participation in broadband buildout.
My little San Juan Mountains town in western Colorado on April Fool’s Day voted by an overwhelming 74% to reclaim the right to provide our own broadband, cable, phone and other telecommunication services.
In 2005 that right was taken away by corporate Internet giant lobbyists who persuaded the state legislators it would be unfair competition to allow rural areas like mine to provide their own gigabit Internet speeds if the giants refused to do so.
Supporters are already dreaming that tech savvy-young ones who develop Apple and Google apps and like to kayak, mountain climb, bike, hike, ski and live in safe, livable small cities will start a migration to Montrose. The city’s ambition is that every business and premises in the city will have the broadband capacity of Chattanooga and the dozen cities that are getting the same capacity through Google Fiber.
Montrose, a city of 19,000 about 65 miles from the Utah border, is a typically conservative rural area, overwhelmingly Republican but with a populist bent. Like all of the Western Slope of the state, it is not participating in the robust economic recovery seen in the Front Slope cities of Denver, Ft. Collins and Colorado Springs.
Internet service here is currently a hodgepodge. Some of us depend on broadcast towers, some on DSL from CenturyLink and some on cable service from Charter. Service is generally at less than 10MB. It’s expensive, and customer service is erratic.
Photo by Bruce Barrett Crocuses, like the ones planted by George and the author.
Megan pulled up in the driveway next door with her baby Julie the other day. She came over to dig flowers and bulbs from the place where her Great Uncle George had lived in Jackson County, North Carolina, for many years.
George passed away a couple of years ago, and before that he had lived with his sister Julia over in Wayehutta, in the house by the river. But George continued to come by the old house and tend his garden and flowers. The house had stayed in the family with one of George’s nephews continuing to live there. It also served as a gathering place for family reunions.
It’s actually a pretty special house. It was the original Jackson County, North Carolina, jail going back to when Webster was still the county seat. George’s parents had moved here in the early 1940’s when their place in Clay County was taken as part of the Fontana Dam project. The house has 18-inch thick masonry walls, and the upstairs floor rests on an I-beam, the first in Jackson County, and has a poured concrete floor. For many years the family ran a small store from the house and the old Webster Post Office, a 12 X 16 building still sits on the property.
All told there’s about nine acres, a couple of barns and some outbuildings. George ran cattle on the land, tended bees and had one of the biggest, most productive gardens in the area. When I became postmaster of Webster in 1998, George and I took to each other right away, and I quickly became his gardening partner. George’s thumb was greener than most. He always had another trick for growing something better or smarter. He was also infinitely curious about learning new methods or trying new crops. My grape vine, a Fredonia, was one of the last things we planted together. It’s lovingly named “George,” and this should be the first year it really bears.
George in front of a tulip bed at the author's house.
Lighting up rural Africa • Online voting in rural areas • No Internet problems in rural MN? • Colorado House approves broadband and phone-deregulation bill • A bill to ban food labeling • What's after coal?
Photo by Steve WoodwardSun King Pro solar lights allow folks in rural India and Africa to cook and read well into the night.
In parts of rural India and
Africa, getting enough electricity to power lights or charge cell phones can
mean traveling and paying someone for kerosene or a generator. Greenlight Planet is producing tiny
solar devices that provide light and charge small electronics. The lights, branded Sun King, can power lights for up to 30 hours, which allows families to cook and study
well after sunset.
Of the 10 states
with the longest average wait times, eight of them were in the South.
This is the same region that is enacting
some of the most strident voter ID laws since the Supreme Court struck down key
parts of the Voting Rights Act last summer.
Online voter registration: "States
are pioneering innovations that make a real difference in the efficiency and
accuracy of their elections operations while also saving money," said David Becker of Pew Charitable Trusts.
Becker told NPR that a growing
number of states allow online voter registration and use technology to make
voting more efficient. There are currently 17 states that offer voters the
opportunity to register online.
With broadband use lower in rural areas, as a rule, we wonder how the online registration trend could affect rural voting.