Roundup: African-American Forest Owners

Touring the Bershires, one bite at a time  • Rural Colorado tries another approach to decreasing political influence • Crowd-sourcing the cost of healthcare • Midwest bankers optimistic about rural economy • Pennsylvania board approves fee changes for rural water systems • “Chicken feed” funding in Britain.

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“If you’re making money from the land, then it’s less likely to be lost,” says Jerry Pennick of the Federation of Southern Cooperative. This video examines efforts to reverse the declining amount of agricultural land owned by African Americans, especially in the South. The USDA and U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities are teaming up in a program to help landowners increase the value and profitability of their forests. In the past century, the amount of agricultural land owned by African Americans dropped from about 15 million acres to just 3 million acres.

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Food Tourism in the Berkshires. Chefs from Western Massachusetts hope to cook a meal for national food writers in New York City this spring as part of an effort to market the Berkshires as a culinary attraction.

“With a little financial backing from the state, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau and the Berkshire Farm & Table organization have teamed up to launch ‘Taste Berkshires,’ an initiative aimed at marketing the Berkshires as a year-round destination for food experiences,” reports the Berkshire Eagle.

The campaign will launch next month and will include other events in New York and Boston. The Berkshires is well known as a cultural attraction, the article says. The campaign will attempt to attract attention to the region’s restaurants that serve food from local sources.

Rural Representation in Colorado. Some counties in Colorado are pursuing a change in the state constitution to increase representation of rural areas in the state Legislature. A proposal approved by Colorado Counties Inc., a nonprofit, calls for converting one chamber of the Legislature from population-based representation to having one member per county. That would give smaller communities a bigger voice in decision making, the Fort Morgan Times reports.

A long-shot bid to create a 51st state from rural counties in the northeast part of the state stalled after lukewarm support in a November ballot resolution.

Crowd-Sources Rural Healthcare Funding. Health advocates in Nepal are turning to international crowd-sourced fundraising to pay for medical treatment of patients in rural parts of the country. They say it’s a way both to raise money for treatment of patients and raise international awareness of poverty and health conditions in developing nations.

Midwest Bankers Express Optimism about Rural Economy. A poll of bankers says “the rural Midwestern economy is expanding at a healthy pace,” the Omaha World-Herald reports. There are signs that farmland prices are falling, and concerns about the lack of a new farm bill tempered bankers’ optimism, the survey said. But that was offset by growth in bank lending, hiring, housing and retail sales all in December.

The Rural Mainstreet Index polls bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Small Pennsylvania Water Systems Get Some Help. Small water systems in Pennsylvania will get some help from urban water customers under a new fee system approved this week by the state’s utilities commission. “It is important to all Pennsylvanians that these rural systems can treat waste water effectively and that the state maintains the quality of all water resources,” said Acting State Consumer Advocate Tanya J. McCloskey.  

“Chicken Feed” Funding. Members of the British Parliament who represent rural districts say a small increase in national funding for local government programs in their districts amounts to “chicken feed,” the Yorkshire Post reports. Rural advocates say there’s a “rural penalty” in the funding formula and that urban areas get 50% more per capita in funding than rural areas.

 

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