Wednesday Roundup: Older Farmers

Aging of American farmers creates challenges • Gold mine could bring jobs and water problems • Planned cuts in emergency services worry rural Washingtonians • Affordable Care Act and one rural Missouri hospital • Texas abortion bill would limit choices for rural residents • North Dakota tops list of best places to live.

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U.S. agriculture is on “the precipice of transition,” reports Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media in a piece on the aging American farmer.

The fastest growing group of farmers is 65 and older, and the average age is 57. A quarter of American farmers are aged 65 and up, while only 5% of the U.S. workforce is that old. Farmers working into old age are creating problems for younger farmers trying to get a start. Younger farmers have less access to land and capital, Gerlock reports. But current farmers don’t necessarily have financial plans in place that would allow them to retire, says a financial planner.

Along with economic incentives to stay in the game, older farmers also have technology to help them keep working into their older years. “It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

Riches or Sickness? — Citizens in the mining villages of San Antonio and El Triunfo, Mexico, are divided about a newly announced gold mine. The mine will provide employment but may contaminate groundwater. The gold deposits are located in the nearby Sierra la Laguna Mountain and are bound to arsenic, which could seep into groundwater. The aquifers below this mountainous region provide drinking and irrigation water to most of the people in the arid state of Baja California Sur.

Local Alma Rosa is against the mine. “We live poor, eat meat only from time to time, live on tortillas, cheese and beans,” Rosa says. “But we are healthy — my husband still climbs the mountain, at age 73. If the mine is open, how old will my sons live to be?”

Emergency Services Cut — The city of Hoquiam in Washington is planning to stop sending paramedics to all but the most serious emergencies in rural Grays Harbor County, which has residents worried. “Unfortunately, somebody’s going to end up dying because there’s not going to be a medical response to our fire district,” said Caroline Perry, a commissioner for one of three rural fire districts that received letters from the city last month.

The letter disclosed that Hoquiam feels it can no longer afford to send ambulances for less serious emergencies to the communities of Pacific Beach, Humptulips and Copalis Crossing because the district owes the city $16,000.

Hospital Helping Rural Town — Jim Doyle of the St. Louis Post Dispatch has an article in Kaiser Health News today shedding light on a small town hospital that is doing big things. Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, which opened earlier this year, serves a factory town of 17,023 residents and is regarded as the remote region’s “sole provider” for certain medical services. Health officials categorize the city of Poplar Bluff and its environs as a medically underserved and high-poverty area with a high proportion of unemployed and uninsured patients.

The article focuses on how the hospital is affected by rural healthcare costs and the Affordable Care Act.

Texas Abortion Bill — Huffington Post writers Katy Hall and Jan Diem say that the Texas abortion bill, which is back up for debate, targets low-income, rural women. Hall ad Diem penned an infographic piece which shows that if the bill is passed, only five abortion clinics will remain open, all of them located in metropolitan areas. This means cost and travel difficulties for patients will increase,  they say.

Best Small Towns — Last week Livability.com named their top 10 small towns to live in, and Dickinson, North Dakota (population 26,771) came away with the top spot. But Dickinson city officials say the small town might not be small much longer. The city’s population has grown 50 percent over the last three years.

Oxford, Mississippi (population 20,088), was awarded second place, and Rock Springs, Wyoming (population 24,047), rounded out the top three. 

 

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