April’s joblessness numbers are a mixed bag for rural communities. The unemployment rate is dropping. But the number of jobs in rural America isn’t climbing very quickly. In fact, in the nation’s most rural counties, there are fewer jobs this year than last.
Within a span of one month, Monsanto won a court case, lost a PR battle and wound up at the center of a controversy over illegal genetically modified wheat. It's all money in the bank for the ag giant.
Dairy farmers in “deep rural” New York got a cool reception when they first tried to connect with the New York City “food movement.” Now, through polite persistence, social media and literally going the extra mile, commodity farmers are making some friends in the nation’s biggest city.
The Supreme Court’s Monsanto decision hurts farmers, reduces biodiversity and makes the world more dependent on the global seed industry. There are ways to encourage agricultural innovation and investment without giving away our genetic future.
Eighty years ago this month, Congress enacted a precedent-setting national farm bill as part of FDR’s first hundred days. The pace of agriculture legislation has slowed considerably in more recent years.
Larry GerbrandtA old pickup truck in the Paulouse region of eastern Washingon. Photographer Larry Gerbrandt has a sampling of his rural landscapes in the British Mail online.
The South holds 37 percent of the country's population but 50 percent of the new HIV diagnoses and eight of the 10 states with the highest infection rates. These facts are part of “Deep South,” a documentary by Lisa Biagiotti that premiered this week in New York. The film addresses the silence about the HIV epidemic in the American South.
Biagiotti asserts that the problem is one of a "broken social infrastructure,” something money alone will not fix. She says more public discussion is the first step. "It's so quiet -- the opposite of urban HIV/AIDS activism of the 1980s and 90s."
Federal land leases must reflect market value by law, but a separate report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis shows leases have fallen short of market value by $29 billion over a 30 year period.
Farm Bill Update - The farm bill hit the House floor for debate yesterday, along with 103 amendments that are open for discussion. Chris Clayton has a roundup of the action in his story today on Progressive Farmer.
The emerging fight in Washington over how to define “rural” for some federal programs is distracting us from the real issue: Federal support of our rural communities is inadequate, ineffective and needs to change. (The Yonder has printed commentary on proposed changes in rural definitions here, here and here.)
I have spent nearly 30 years working on rural and frontier definitions, responding to Federal Register rule-making, executive and congressional initiatives. I’ve worked at all levels professionally to personally – from the White House to my extremely under-resourced home community of 300 in frontier New Mexico.
Government keeps us so tied up in the busy work of defining who’s in and out of rural programs there is never time to get to the heart of definition madness. It’s time to demand to know why we are spending our time defining rural, and why we are doing it now.
The economic collapse and so-called “austerity” have left rural America reeling. Everybody and his brother have conducted studies and reported the tragic, intentional, immoral rural poverty data ad nauseum.
Everyone needs help, including urban and exurban America. The whole country is being neglected and destroyed by “austerity” cuts. But, since my expertise is the 85% of the country’s land area that is not urban, I am going to stick to what I know.
HAC Rural Research Note: Poverty in Rural AmericaMap shows counties with poverty rates of 20% or more in every decennial census since 1990.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed more than 200 amendments to the five-year, $939 billion farm bill. Erik Wasson of The Hill outlines seven particular battles to watch in the coming days.
Nutrition program funding. The bill cuts $20.5 billion from the food stamp program. Liberals say that’s too much. Conservatives say it’s not enough and have proposed deeper cuts.
Corn and soy farmers in the Midwest are backing an amendment proposed by Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Kind (R-Wis.) to limit price-based subsidies. Southern farmers, including those who grow rice and peanuts, will fight this amendment.
Changes in the dairy section of the bill, called the “Dairy Security Act,” face criticism from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and industries that use dairy products.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) is the chief sponsor of the amendment to change the sugar program, after many big sugar users say higher sugar prices threaten their industries.
Reps. Jeff Denham (D-Calif.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) proposed a national standard for egg production which would preclude state-by-state regulation.
Fiscal conservatives are offering amendments targeting agriculture subsidies such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and support for sushi rice and stone production.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) propose an amendment to allow foreign nations to buy more of their food aid abroad rather than receiving as much in direct shipments from the United States.
Figuring out which health insurance is right for you may be the biggest challenge people face in adapting to the Affordable Care Act. Other changes – like ending the practice of denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions – go into effect automatically.
EDITOR’S NOTE: How will rural America fare under the Affordable Care Act? That’s one issue the National Rural Assembly will tackle next week in Bethesda, Maryland. Steph Larsen with the Center for Rural Affairs will help lead two sessions on “Obamacare” and rural America. Here she answers some of the questions she’s hearing about the health-care reform.
Steph LarsenIf you were to look in my email inbox, one thing is clear – rural Americans, like the rest of the country, are confused about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA. I’m happy people are asking me about the health care law, frankly, because that means they aren’t just believing the latest rumor they heard from their mother’s hairdresser’s cousin.
So here’s a place to start – some answers to common questions about what the Affordable Care Act means for rural communities.
What parts of the Affordable Care Act are likely to be easiest (and most problematic) for rural communities?
The easiest provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for rural people will be the ones that happen automatically. For example, keeping a child on your health insurance until they turn 26 or free preventative services will happen without consumers doing anything. When the ACA passed, I received a letter from my insurance company detailing changes to my policy. They were all good things, and each one was mandated by the ACA. I didn’t have to do anything.
Buying insurance has never been easy, but there’s one piece that won’t be a problem for anyone – no one will get a rejection notice. No matter who you are, where you live or what your past health problems have been, if you want to buy health insurance, no one will be turned away. And you will pay exactly what everyone else of your same age, tobacco use, family size and location pays. In other words, you won’t pay more regardless of your health. Just like those sketchy commercials you see on daytime TV claiming “no health questions” – except this is real.
Newspaper series targets N.C. Rural Center • Montana governor may run for Senate • With FEMA gone, could Texas help town of West? • Google floats a new idea for Internet access.
Justin Jin for The New York TimesFormer farmers working on a park built over farmland in Chengdu, where the local government is razing villages and farmland on the outskirts of the city to make way for urban development.
The most e-mailed story out of The New York Times Sunday night was a long report about China's efforts to move 250 million people from rural communities to cities. The effort will either "set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come," writes Ian Johnson.
Residential towers are going up all over the country to house farmers who are being moved off the land. The state owns the land, so nothing is taken. But ways of life are being altered totally.
The full story is amazing and you should read it, but here are some quotes that tell how huge -- and ominous for rural China -- this effort of social engineering is and will be. Here is the theory China is working on, according to Johnson:
The primary motivation for the urbanization push is to change China’s economic structure, with growth based on domestic demand for products instead of relying so much on export. In theory, new urbanites mean vast new opportunities for construction companies, public transportation, utilities and appliance makers, and a break from the cycle of farmers consuming only what they produce. “If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”
Foundation grants to groups in two rural development networks rose modestly since 2006, the year Sen. Max Baucus issued his challenge to double rural philanthropy. These findings will be part of a larger presentation on the state of rural philanthropy at next week’s National Rural Assembly.
Foundation grants to some of the nation’s most highly regarded rural community development corporations grew significantly in the years following a U.S. senator’s 2006 call for the nation’s philanthropies to do a better job in rural America.
But by 2011 those gains in funding had largely disappeared.
PoynterRick Cohen addresses the National Rural Assembly in
2008. He'll give a presentation on trends in rural philanthropy at the 2013
Assembly in Bethesda, Maryland, next week.Reporting in Nonprofit Quarterly last week, Rick Cohen (also a contributor to the Daily Yonder) says private foundation grants to key rural community development organizations grew only slightly in the five-year period starting in 2006. That’s the year Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) challenged the nation’s charitable foundations to double their gifts to rural projects within five years.
Cohen will present these findings and the results of a larger study on rural grantmaking at a plenary session of the National Rural Assembly on June 25 in Bethesda, Maryland.
In his Nonprofit Quarterly report, Cohen looked at grants to organizations in the rural program of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Rural LISC) and the NeighborWorks Rural Initiative. These networks include 58 and 80 community development corporations (CDCs) respectively. They work on a variety of community development projects in rural communities including housing and business development.
Photo by Kevin DooleyA British study says the seashore is the most restorative natural setting. Also near the top of the list are woods and mountains. Urban parks and playing fields ranked lowest for their restorative powers.
Science has verified what the poets have claimed for ages: that first-hand encounters with nature can help calm our emotions and improve our brainpower. Now social scientists in Great Britain say the more rural the natural setting, the more that experience will help recharge our mental and emotional batteries.
The researchers looked at 4,255 responses to a national survey of people who visited natural settings. They investigated what these nature-lovers remembered about their state of mind after the visit -- feelings of calmness, relaxation, revitalization or refreshment. From these responses, the researchers ranked the natural settings for their powers of rejuvenation.
Top on the list are seashores, followed closely by "green-space" settings of forests and mountains.
The least restorative natural settings are urban parks, the study found.