Roundup: Librarian Story Long Overdue

Recycling in rural areas • Secure Rural Schools gets another year of funding • North Dakota farmers worry about effects of oil and gas drilling • John Deere Lay-offs • Small-town banks do a better job with loans than big chains


public radio profile that aired nationally today. Rachel Reynolds Luster is head of the Myrtle, Missouri, branch of the county library. On a tight budget, supplemented with bake sales and donations, she curates the library’s collection, helps patrons get online via the library’s Internet access and recommends books for readers, young and old. Rachel is a mom, fiddler, Ph.D. candidate, and some readers will know her from her participation in the National Rural Assembly.


A USA Today story looks at recycling in rural America – or does it?

“Despite rising interest in recycling, there are huge pockets of rural America where residents would have to drive 100 miles or more to recycle even basic household trash such as paper and plastic,” reports Brian Eason.

But it’s nearly impossible to quantify the gap between recycling availability in rural and urban America. Instead of any rural vs. urban numbers, the story looks at recycling rates for the entire states of Mississippi and Wyoming.

The inference is that because these states have above-average proportions of rural residents and below-average recycling rates, rurality is somehow a factor in recycling activity. That’s a stretch. From statewide numbers, there’s no way to know what the rural recycling rates might be.

The story does contain good anecdotal information about some of the challenges associated with successful rural recycling programs. And there’s a good example of a recycling coalition in New Mexico that has expanded service and seen a 113% increase in recycling since 2007.

Rural Schools Program Refunded. In the midst of all the government shut-down news, we missed an item of great interest to rural schools located in counties with lots of federal land.

On October 1, President Obama signed into law continued funding for the Secure Rural Schools program. This initiative provides some extra federal funding to communities that have relied on federal logging revenues to support their school systems.

The legislation was tacked onto the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013. The program will provide about $270 million for the participating rural school systems. The Secure Rural Schools program expired in 2006 but has been reauthorized at lower levels on an annual basis since then.

There are brief reports in the Juneau Empire and the Plumas County (California) News.

Energy Development Concerns Farmers in N.D. The billions of dollars in revenue streaming into North Dakota from oil and gas drilling are becoming a detriment to the state’s agricultural industry, some farmers and environmentalists say.

Farmers are worried that large landfills used to dispose of solid mining waste could damage nearby cropland. The farmers who sell or lease the land for the dumps get compensation. But nearby farmers worry that leaks could damage adjacent land and groundwater, leaving them with liability and no compensation.

The rapid pace of energy development in North Dakota means that laws and enforcement are not keeping pace with energy operations, the director of the Dakota Resource Council  told John Eligon of the New York Times. “We’re not in any way, shape or form against oil,” said Don Morrison. “The pace of development is the problem and the fact that there are laws on the books that are not being implemented to protect people’s water and land and livelihoods.”

Deere & Co. to Lay off 100 in Iowa. John Deere is laying off 100 workers at its Akeny, Iowa, manufacturing plant near Des Moines.  A Deere & Co. spokesman said the layoffs were a response to low market demand for Deere, the Des Moines Register reported.

Bio-Engineering Spices and Flavorings. Genetic engineers are working to modify yeast to produce spices and flavorings like vanilla, saffron, patchouli.

“It’s just like brewing beer, but rather than spit out alcohol, the yeast spits out these products,” said one owner of a bio-engineering firm.

The New York Times’ Andrew Pollack looks at some of the opportunities and complications of the bio-engineering:

“The advent of synthetic biology raises thorny economic and regulatory issues, such as whether such yeast-made ingredients can be called natural and whether developing countries dependent on these crops will be hurt.”

Small-Town Banks Do a Better Job with Loans, Report Says. Small banks in towns and rural communities do a better job of “Banking 101” – basic services like home mortgages and loans to small businesses and farms, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “According to the FDIC, in every five-year period since 1991, a lower percentage of loans from community banks has gone bad. Richard Brown, the FDIC’s chief economist, says small banks have a competitive advantage with ‘nonquantitative’ (sometimes called ‘soft’) information—knowledge of their customers and the local economy.” The

The Rural Cola War. Pepsi and Coke are extending the front lines of the cola war to rural India. Both companies are investing in rural distribution as a way to expand sales, the Times of India reports.