Roundup: Wealth Stacked in the Northeast

Wealth concentration • Advice from a rural doc • A corn-powered Navy • Rural softer on gun laws? • Coal threatened by cheap gas • Farmers look to exploit new laws

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America’s wealth and poverty concentrate geographically. And it’s not hard to see how rural stacks up.

More than half of the nation’s 75 counties with the highest median incomes are located in the Northeast, according to Census data, reports the Wire. And of those counties, most are located in the megalopolis that stretches from Washington D.C. to New York City.

Conversely, poverty is concentrated in the South. More than three-quarters of the nation’s poorest counties are located there.

Advice for doctors. Dr. Richard Vermillion has learned a thing or two while treating the people of Ogden, Iowa, over the past 53 years.

One piece of advice the doctor has for new physicians, like his own grandson, who just completed a one-month rotation in Vermillion’s clinic is to “keep quiet and listen to your patients,” reports  Kyle Munson in the Des Moines Register. “They know their bodies better than anybody and most of the time can tell you what’s wrong.”

The story, which also got picked up in USA Today, profiles the 83-year-old Vermillion as a way to look at the challenge of getting new physicians to practice in rural areas.

Vermillion has his replacement picked out and already practicing at the family clinic. It’s a local man, Caleb Glawe, who “was born 39 years ago in the hospital in nearby Boone, Iowa, where he was ushered into this world by Vermillion’s own expert hands.”

Farm-to-fleet. While the Environmental Protection Agency is considering decreasing the amount of renewable fuel that streams through the nation’s energy supply, the U.S. Navy and Department of Agriculture have announced a plan to increase the amount of ethanol in fuel that powers the U.S. fleet.

The “Farm-to-Fleet” partnership will use USDA funding to increase the Navy’s purchase of fuel that contains up to 50% ethanol.

“Not only will production of these fuels create jobs in rural America, they’re cost effective for our military, which is the biggest consumer of petroleum in the nation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “America’s Navy shouldn’t have to depend on oil supplies from foreign nations to ensure our national defense, and rural America stands ready to provide clean, homegrown energy that increases our military’s energy independence and puts Americans to work.”

Deliveries should start in 2015.

Another rift between urban and rural America? The New York Times reports on a perceived trend among some sheriff’s departments to give low priority to enforcing gun laws enacted after the Newton, Connecticut, elementary school shooting. The story says some urban police chiefs are more likely to enforce the law, though there are no numbers or quotes that elucidate the statement.

Getting ready for gas. People in coal-powered-dependant regions may soon be seeing a higher power bill, up to $5 more per month, according to a story in the Atlantic. A market research firm estimates the country will lose 64,000 megawatts of energy from coal powered plants in the next eight years. That’s 5,000 more megawatts than they estimated earlier this year. The main reasons for this decline, according to the story, is one part stricter emissions regulation on coal power plants one part the emergence of rock-bottom priced natural gas. 

Supplying the suppliers. States that have recently legalized marijuana are finding themselves navigating virgin territory. Always on the lookout for new crop opportunities, farmers in these states are rushing to plant, grow, and sell the plant to stores hungry for product. Donald Burks, a farmer of 30 years in Washington state, is a good example. 

“Every farmer I know is on the lookout for a new crop,” he said. Mr. Burks said he never imagined that marijuana would one day become an agricultural crop, legal as parsnips, but he admits he’s been wrong before. “I didn’t expect I’d see broccoli become a popular product either, and it has,” he said.

 

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