Roundup: Obamacare in Indian Country

Rural electric co-op goes solar • The rural leadership gap • Program promotes ag products of veterans • Grants to purchase CPR machines for rural ambulances in the Dakotas • New round of “placemaking” grants • Colorado secession movement promotes new strategy • And more …

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Iowa co-op aims to become biggest solar producer in state. The oldest rural electric cooperative in Iowa has plans to become the state’s largest solar electricity producer, the Iowa Citizen Press reports. Farmers Electric Co-op in the unincorporated town of Frytown plans to build a solar farm on up to nine acres on property about 20 miles southwest of Iowa City.

Construction on the first four acres of solar panels could begin early next year.

“I think once we get the farm done, we will actually probably lead the nation in watts per customer,” McKenna said. “That’s huge.”

Founded in 1916, Farmers Electric Co-op has been investing in solar power since 2008, when the cooperative installed solar arrays at Township Elementary and Iowa Mennonite School for renewable energy and educational opportunities.

Next came the solar garden, which allows residents to purchase solar panels, at a reduced cost, in the cooperative’s growing solar array behind the company’s main building. The value of power generated on the panels is then deducted from the customer’s electric bill.

Maria Urice, a consultant who helps coordinate and market the cooperative’s renewable and energy efficiency efforts, said the solar garden was an immediate success.

“We offered 20 (panels), and they were sold out in less than a week,” she said.

Another initiative allows residents to purchase and install site arrays near their businesses, farms or homes.

All these initiatives fit into the co-op’s goal of generating 15 percent of its entire power output using renewable energy by 2025.

At this rate, that goal could be met a decade early, [Warren] McKenna, [co-op manager] said.


The rural leadership generation gap. The Rural Futures Conference at the University of Nebraska concluded last week with a frank discussion about the generation gap among rural leaders. A report from news service of the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources has an unusually candid exchange between older and younger leaders talking about how to get residents engaged in community work.

“Homegrown by Heroes.” The Farm Credit System is supporting a program to help U.S. military veterans who are farmers market their agricultural products. The program will allow veterans to label their products with a sticker that says “Homegrown by Heroes.” The program started in Kentucky and is expanding nationwide, Farm Credit says in a press release.

Maryland’s rural/urban disconnect. Columnist Tim Rowland of the Hagerstown, Maryland, Herald-Mail looks at the tone of interaction between rural and urban leaders in Maryland. “Civil discourse seems to be a thing of the past,” he writes. “Social media, call-in cable news polls, blogs and Internet posts have given everyone a voice. That’s great. Except that with everyone talking, there’s no one left to listen.”

Helmsley grant supports CPR machines in the Dakotas. A multi-million dollar grant to the state of South Dakota will help purchase CPR machines that will help rural medical personnel provide life-saving treatments to patients during long rides to the hospital. The $3.7 million gift is from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. North Dakota received a $3 million gift from the trust last week for the same purpose.

CPR can exhaust emergency responders, the Argus Leader reports.

“CPR is the emergency step after heart failure that can keep a patient alive and prevent brain damage,” the article says .” It generally requires a first responder or good Samaritan to make 100 compressions a minute, with each compression 1.5 to 2 inches against the sternum.”

A Helmsley foundation trustee, Walter Panzirer, is a Sioux Falls resident and a grandson of the late Leona Helmsley, the New York billionaire.

“When I was a paramedic — typically, quality goes down after the first five or 10 minutes because of fatigue,” Panzirer said. “In a rural area, you can’t throw that many people in the back of an ambulance to rotate people doing CPR.”

ArtPlace America opens new round of grantmaking. ArtPlace America is taking applications for its 2014 Innovation Grants. “Grants will be awarded to projects that involve arts organizations, artists and designers working in partnership with local and national partners on place-based strategies that can transform communities,” the organizations website says. Examples of partners include organizations working in economic development, transportation, neighborhood development, entrepreneurship, sustainability and health.

Rural advocates support Rural Development funding. A coalition of rural policy advocacy organizations has sent a letter to congressional leaders who are negotiating a compromise version of the farm bill. The Campaign for a Renewed Rural Development represents more than 30 advocacy groups such as the National Association for Development Organizations, the National Association of Counties, the National Grange, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and the National Rural Health Association.

The letter asks leaders of the farm bill conference committee to support the Senate’s $228 million mandatory funding for the Rural Development Title, rather than cuts proposed in the House version of the bill.

Alabama train derailment raises oil-transport concerns. A derailment and explosion of train tankers carrying crude oil in Alabama last week may raise questions about the safety of transporting the oil by rail, Reuters reports. The accident involved 25 of the train’s 90 cars. The resulting fire burned throughout the weekend and leaked crude oil into nearby marshland. The crude oil was from North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch, the same type of oil that was part of a derailment and explosion in Quebec this summer that killed 47 people. There were no injuries in the Alabama derailment and explosion.

Colorado secessionists change strategy. Leaders of an effort in rural counties in northeast Colorado have shifted their plans from a strategy of secession to one of increasing representation in the state’s Legislature, The Windsor Beacon reports. Six out of 11 counties (including the region’s most populous by far) rejected a straw poll on forming a 51st state last week. Leaders of the effort now say they want to increase the number of representatives from rural districts in the state Legislature.

“There’s no hiding the fact that this is not an easy thing,” said Sean Conway, a Weld County commissioner who is proposing the shift in legislative membership. “It’s going to require all of us to lean in. It starts with mutual respect.”

It would also require statewide support from voters.

Consolidation in TV markets. A massive consolidation of ownership of television stations in small and mid-level markets is using shell companies and outsourcing to skirt federal rules, according to an op/ed in the Baltimore Sun. The piece is based on a report from Free Press.

Report says water protections inadequate. The Western Organization of Resource Councils has released a report calling for additional monitoring and enforcement to “protect water from harmful effects of oil and gas development in North Dakota and other western states.”

 

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