Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ten $10K Food and Farming Journalism Fellowships available at Berkeley; application deadline Mar. 15

Ten $10,000 postgraduate Food and Farming Journalism Fellowships are available from the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism "to report ambitious long-form stories on the full range of subjects under the rubric of food systems: agricultural and nutritional policy, the food industry, food science, technology and culture, rural and urban farming, agriculture and the environment (including climate change), global trade and supply chains, consolidation and securitization of the food system and public health as it relates to food and farming," the school says.

The fellowship, a project of the Knight Center in Science and Environmental Journalism, is supported by a grant from The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation. Fellowships are open to print and audio journalists. Reporting and writing will take place from June to November, with two required workshops at UC Berkeley, from May 29 to June 2, then again in December.

The application deadline is March 15. Applications "should include a one-page pitch with a clearly defined story idea, not just a subject," the school says. "The pitch should reflect some preliminary research, providing a clear sense of place, characters, narrative and reporting strategy. The application also requires a curriculum vitae, two letters of recommendation and published clips." For more information or to apply, click here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Nearly two-thirds of children drink at least one sugary drink per day, CDC study finds

Nearly two-thirds of children ages 2-19 consume at least one sugary drink per day, says a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "Studies have suggested a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in children." Obesity is more prevalent among rural children.

The CDC study, which used data from 2011-14 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that 62.9 percent of youth consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day. Among boys, 32.7 percent consumed one sugary drink, 20.2 percent two and 11.5 percent at least three. For girls, 33.7 percent had one, 18.1 percent two and 9.5 percent three. (CDC graphic: Percentage of youth who consumed sugary beverages from 2011-14)
Despite efforts to decrease sugar intake, CDC found that children "are consuming roughly the same number of calories from soda, sports drinks and other sugary beverages now as they did in 2009-2010, the last time the CDC published comparable data," Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post. Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, told her, “The amount of sugar that children in particular consume is still astounding. We recommend that children drink soda once a week or less."

Asher Rosinger, epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC and lead author of the study, said "on average, drinking two or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day provided more than 10 percent of the total daily calories among the children," Jacqueline Howard reports for CNN. "2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing added sugars consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day and, specifically, to choose beverages with no added sugars."

Trump immigration plan could cause U.S. farm labor shortage; dairy farmers have special problem

The federal government estimates that about half of the nation's farm workers are in the U.S. illegally, with numbers in some states believed to be much higher, David Sommerstein reports for NPR. A reliance on immigrants for farm labor has led to concern that President Trump's plan to build a border wall and ramp up immigration enforcement could hurt agriculture.

"Dairy farmers don't control the price of their milk. The federal government does that," Sommerstein writes. Cornell University's Thomas Maloney says at the minimum wage they can afford to pay, farmers are resigned to hiring foreign workers to do this dirty, physically demanding work." He told Sommerstein that farmers "are convinced most Americans do not want to do the kinds of jobs that they have available on their farms." (425 Business chart using Pew Research Center data; click on iot for a larger version)
The problem is that "there is no legal agricultural visa for the year-round work of dairy farms," like the seasonal visas for crops, Sommerstein writes. Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, told Sommerstein, "If it's strictly an enforcement-only, build the wall and deport all of our farm workers, then we're going to have serious problems when it comes to growing food and providing enough food to feed ourselves in this country."

Trump has said, "People are going to come through on worker permits to work the fields. We're going to have people, a lot of people are going to come through, but it's going to be done through a legal process," Sommerstein notes, "But so far, he's offered no details, leaving farmers and farm workers to square that Trump with the one issuing executive orders this week. One of them makes it a priority to deport non-citizens who have defrauded a government agency."

NPR series looks at how town's shape people's identities, starting with Independence, Kan.

As part of a series called "Our Land," NPR reporters are visiting U.S. communities to find out how people's identities are shaped by where they live. Reporter Melissa Block recently was in Independence, Kan. (Best Places map), a town whose population has gone from 12,782 in 1930, to 10,030 in 1990, to less than 9,000 today. Independence has lost many businesses, including the shuttering of its only hospital in 2015. Despite having an uncertain future Block found that residents "remain proud of their town and its history."

She reports, "If you're from Independence, you wear that name with pride. People here are especially proud of their annual Neewollah Festival* held every October, the oldest and largest festival in the state. They're proud to be the hometown of playwright and novelist William Inge, who wrote 'Bus Stop' and 'Picnic.' Their hometown author is celebrated in the annual William Inge Theater Festival. It's attracted marquee names as honorees, Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon, big city folks plunked down in rural Kansas." (*Halloween spelled backwards)

Independence is the type of town where most everything is "just a couple of blocks away," Block writes. The town has a community college and a local newspaper, the Montgomery County Chronicle. Editor Andy Taylor, who writes, edits, takes photos and even delivers papers, told Block, "We used to have a J.C. Penney department store over here. That's now gone. We had a furniture store, it's gone, a Hallmark store, it's gone. We had a clothing store, department store. It's gone." In October 2015 the town lost its hospital.

"The hospital and the oil pipeline company that shut down here in the '90s, these were pillars supporting the community. Philanthropy flowed through them," Block reports. "They sponsored events, pumped money into schools and churches. And the jobs - they were high-paying, professional positions."

Taylor told Block that no new businesses have come into town to replace lost jobs: "Once all that old money dies off and leaves town, then that's, that really hurts. Again, there's that old theory that when Grandma and Grandpa die, the funeral's at 2 o'clock; the family's at the bank at 3 o'clock, and they're out of town with that money at 4 o'clock. And I've seen that happen many times."

N.J. Gov. Christie renews attempt to remove paid public notices from newspapers

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is continuing his attack against newspapers and their local-government revenue sources. The Republican on Tuesday urged lawmakers to consider proposed legislation, dubbed the "newspaper revenge bill," that "would allow municipalities to post legal notices on websites instead of newspapers. All legal notices are posted and archived online through the New Jersey Press Association," Dustin Racioppi and Bob Jordan report for The Record and the Asbury Park Press.

"Multiple sources have said that Christie's intent on getting it passed is to punish newspapers for their critical coverage of him. He hasn't taken questions from state reporters in 140 days," Racioppi and Jordan write. The legislation lacked support last year,

"Christie contends that the bill is about taxpayer relief," Racioppi and Jordan write. "He contends that the bill's passage would save taxpayers 'tens of millions' annually, but his analysis to this point falls far below the $80 million he claims newspapers statewide make on the ads. Christie said his office analyzed legal notices in The Star-Ledger, the state's largest newspaper, and determined that it was paid $16.6 million for legal ads last year. The New Jersey Press Association has said the cost of legal notices in all state newspapers is about $20 million, with less than half of that being borne by taxpayers."

Tom Donovan, regional president of the Gannett East Group and publisher of The Record, said in a statement: “With all due respect to the governor, he doesn’t get to make up the facts when it comes to what the legal ad revenues are throughout the state of New Jersey."

Racioppi and Jordan write, "The proposed law change has been dubbed by a lawmaker as a 'revenge bill' because it came after coverage of the Christie administration’s Bridgegate scandal, which resulted in three convictions or guilty pleas from Christie allies from the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane-closure caper."

Nation's largest offshore wind farm approved between Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard

Parcels identified for wind-power development
along the Eastern seaboard. Deepwater Wind

is in the large red area. (NYT graphic)
The nation's largest offshore wind farm received approval Wednesday, Diane Cardwell reports for The New York Times. The farm, approved by the Long Island Power Authority, would be placed on "the waters between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard."

"The farm, with as many as 15 turbines capable of powering 50,000 average homes over all, is the first of several planned by the developer, Deepwater Wind," Cardwell writes. "It will be in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for as many as 200 turbines, that the company is leasing from the federal government." The project is expected to cost $740 million.

"The turbines, each roughly 600 feet tall, would be connected to a substation in East Hampton by a 50-mile undersea cable," Cardwell writes. Deepwater officials said unlike other proposed projects it will have little to no effect on ocean views, which has been a concern for many residents. They expect the farm is to begin transmitting power by the end of 2022, meaning construction would need to begin by 2020.

The wind farm falls in line with New York Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's goal of drawing 50 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030, Cardwell writes. "That goal includes 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind, enough to power 1.25 million homes," the largest commitment to offshore wind in the U.S.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

State laws that block local laws are on the rise, exposing rural-urban divide in some states

The phenomenon of state lawmakers, largely from rural areas, blocking laws by cities is on the rise, widening the rural/urban divide between cities and states, Sophie Quinton reports for Stateline. "While legislators say they’re trying to ensure consistency in state policy, so-called state pre-emption laws often expose political differences between state leaders—many of whom hail from rural districts—and city leaders." Some cities have fought back, challenging preemptive laws in court. More lawsuits are expected, as are more battles between state lawmakers and cities.

"States vary in the amount of power they give their cities and counties. Ultimately, however, states have the power to decide what localities can or can’t do," Quinton writes. "Pre-emption has become more common partly because cities have grown bigger and more powerful over time, and more likely to experiment with policy." (Stateline graphic)
"Political and philosophical differences also play a role in pre-emption fights," Quinton writes. "Republicans now control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office in 24 states. Mayors who ran as Democrats or who are affiliated with the Democratic Party control 78 percent of the nation’s 40 largest cities."

"About 32 states now prohibit localities from regulating ride-hailing companies such as Uber, 23 ban raising the local minimum wage, 15 ban cities from requiring companies to offer sick days, and three ban anti-discrimination ordinances that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, according to the tally kept by the Partnership for Working Families, a network of left-leaning advocacy groups," Quinton writes. "Many states also have stopped cities and counties from creating municipal broadband networks, imposing bans on fracking, and charging customers a fee for using plastic carryout bags. In Arizona and Florida, laws penalize cities that defy pre-emption laws."

Medicaid expansion greatly increased coverage, especially in rural areas, study finds

Medicaid expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act greatly increased access to health care for Americans, especially in rural areas, says a study by researchers at Indiana University, published in The Journal of Rural Health. Researchers, who used data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey from 2011-15, found that expansion "increased the probability of Medicaid coverage for targeted populations in rural and urban areas, with a significantly greater increase in rural areas, but some of these gains were offset by reductions in individual purchased insurance among rural populations." 

"Medicaid expansion increased the probability of having 'any insurance' for the pooled urban and rural low-income populations, and it specifically increased Medicaid coverage more in rural versus urban populations," says the study. "There was some evidence that the expansion was accompanied by some shifting from individual purchased insurance to Medicaid in rural areas, and there is a need for future work to understand the implications of this shift on expenditures, access to care and utilization." 

Results suggested "that rural childless adults, compared to urban childless adults, experienced a 1.9-percentage-point larger increase in the probability of having Medicaid as a result of the expansion," says the study. "Rural childless adults experienced a 1.5 percentage point larger decline in the probability of having individual purchased insurance. (IU graphic)

Aging populations, declining migration are leading to an older workforce in some rural areas

Susan Fullen, 64, is in her first year of teaching business
classes at Jerome High School. She said she expects to keep
working well beyond 65. (Times-News photo by Drew Nash)
With fewer people moving to rural areas and the average age of rural populations rising, many rural areas are relying on an older workforce, Heather Kennison reports for The Times News in Twin Falls, Idaho. The Idaho Department of Labor and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates project the state's 65-and-older population "is expected to climb rapidly by 2025, outpacing the national average."

About 33 percent of Idahoans aged 65-69 work, and nearly 10 percent of those over 80 do, Kennison writes. "Nearly 20 percent of Blaine County’s utilities workers, for example, are 65 and older. And seniors account for more than 10 percent among Jerome County employees in agriculture, utilities, transportation and warehousing, real estate and leasing, and arts and recreation."

One problem is an unequal distribution of population growth, Kennison writes. The Idaho Department of Labor projects that from 2015-25 the state's rural population will grow by 40,384 people, compared to 214,067 for urban areas. "While the fastest-growing age group in both rural and urban counties is 65 and older, rural counties will have far less growth in other age groups. The 65-and-older cohort is projected to increase 24 percent in rural counties, while the 15-to-24 cohort will shrink 1.1 percent. The 23-39 cohort will grow 8.4 percent in rural counties, versus 15.8 percent in urban counties."

Another problem is that Idaho has a low unemployment rate, with 64 percent—the national average is 62.8 percent—of all working-age people holding jobs, Kennison writes.That’s a higher participation rate than the national average of 62.8 percent, said Sam Wolkenhauer, a Department of Labor regional economist and population forecaster.  Unemployment rates in rural areas, such as Jerome County, are especially low, at 3.2 percent.

Trump team 'scrubbing up' EPA climate-change site, restricting USDA and Interior communications

Screen grab from today of EPA site
While the Trump administration on Wednesday backed off its plan to remove climate-change information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, tighter restrictions are being placed on what can be published, Timothy Cama reports for The Hill. Trump spokesperson Doug Ericksen "said officials are reviewing all of the 'editorial' parts of the EPA’s website for possible changes." He told reporters, “We’re looking at scrubbing it up a bit, putting a little freshener on it, and getting it back up to the public. We’re taking a look at everything on there."

Ericksen said "scientific findings likely will need to have their work reviewed on a 'case by case basis'," Nathan Rott reports for NPR. "Any review would directly contradict the agency's current scientific integrity policy, which was published in 2012. It prohibits 'all EPA employees, including scientists, managers and other Agency leadership from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions'."

"It also would likely have a chilling effect on the agency's ability to conduct research on the environmental issues it is charged with regulating," Rott writes. "Ericksen did not say whether such a review process would become a permanent feature of Trump's EPA."

Trump recently ordered federal agencies "to clamp down on public communications, prohibiting agency officials from most external communications, including with reporters and through social media," Cama writes. "Agency leaders have also frozen most grant and contract payments, though some communication and payment restrictions are likely to be lifted in the coming days."

The EPA isn't the only agency to be muzzled, James Hohman reports for The Washington Post. Officials from the Agriculture Department received a memo instructing them "to clear any media communications with the secretary's office," Hohman writes. After the National Park Service Twitter account retweeted two items viewed as "unsympathetic" to President Trump, the Interior Department abruptly shutdown their official Twitter account. One of the Park Service retweets "referred to the size of the inauguration crowd on the Mall, while another addressed policies that were excised from the White House website after Trump’s swearing-in." The Interior Department has since reactivated its account.  

Republicans in Minn., Va. want electoral vote by district; would've reflected Trump's rural support

Republicans in Minnesota and Virginia want to split "up their electoral votes by congressional districts instead of awarding them statewide," David Weigel reports for The Washington Post. That would have reflected the rural support Trump had in both states.

"In Minnesota, Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt has introduced a bill that would assign one electoral vote to each of the state's districts, and two to the winner of the statewide popular vote," Weigel writes. "In Virginia, Rep. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg) has introduced identical legislation, and passed it through the Elections Subcommittee on a party-line vote." Nebraska and Maine are the only states that allocated their votes this way.

"If active in 2016, the bills would have handed a total of 11 electoral votes from Hillary Clinton to Trump, in states won by Clinton," Weigel writes. "Trump won six of Virginia's 11 districts, and five of Minnesota's eight districts. In Minnesota, that would have meant a 5-5 electoral vote tie for Trump despite a statewide loss; nationwide, it would have bumped his electoral vote total to 317."

Trump signs directive for border wall; critics say migrants will cross at more dangerous areas

President Trump on Wednesday signed executive actions "to build a border wall with Mexico and cut off funds to cities that do not report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities," David Nakamura reports for The Washington Post. The presidential directives "aim to create more detention centers, add thousands of Border Patrol agents and withhold federal funds from what are known as sanctuary cities, which do not comply with federal immigration laws. One order calls for the 'immediate construction of a physical wall.'” There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

Trump promised that construction of the border wall would begin within months, Nakurmura writes. "Federal funds would have to be appropriated by Congress, and construction industry analysts have said the total costs of a barrier along the southern U.S. border with Mexico could approach $20 billion.Trump’s directives also call for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officials. Administration officials have said they are discussing funding options with GOP lawmakers." (Post map: U.S./Mexico border)
Building a wall has many on both sides worried about safety, especially in rural areas, Nigel Duara reports for the Los Angeles Times. In 2008 fencing was constructed between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico—part of President George W. Bush's $2.8 billion plan for a 650-mile barrier. While El Paso became one the nation's safest cities, a record number of migrants from Mexico and Central America died from 2010-14 while trying to cross through the Sonoran Desert into Arizona, Duara writes.

Carlos Marentes, who in 1995 founded the Border Farm Workers Center in El Paso, "worries that plans for a larger wall will push the migrant workers who use his center farther from the relative safety of the cities and into the wild desert of west Texas," Duara writes. Carlos Valdiviezo told Duara, "People are going to find a way to cross; you cannot stop that. But the wall will change much about life on the border. People will find a way to cross, but it will be more dangerous now."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cancer death rates on the rise in parts of the South and Appalachia, despite overall decline, study finds

In poor counties with high rates of obesity and smoking cancer death rates rose by about 50 percent from 1980-2014, says a study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington published in the Journal of the American Medical Associaiton. While cancer mortality rates declined 20.1 percent during the study period, death rates remain high in some rural areas, including large clusters of the South, especially in Eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia, areas hit hard by the loss of coal jobs. (UW map: Mortality rate for cancer and other neoplasms in 2014; click on map for larger image)
Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics and, the Census Bureau and the Human Mortality Database from 1980 to 2014 for 29 cancers. During that time there were 19.5 million cancer deaths in the U.S. In 1980 the cancer mortality rate was 240.2 per 100,000, but declined to 192 per 100,000 in 2014.

Change in mortality rates for neoplasms, 1980-2014
"In counties with the highest 2014 cancer death rates, six of the top 10 were in Eastern Kentucky," Lindsey Tanner reports for The Associated Press. "Six of the 10 lowest rates were in the Colorado Rockies. For lung cancer deaths, four of the five counties with the highest 2014 rates were in Eastern Kentucky, with rates up to 80 percent higher than in 1980."

"Three of the five counties with the lowest 2014 rates were in the Colorado Rockies, where rates dropped by up to 60 percent," Tanner writes. "Death rates for breast and colorectal cancers increased in Madison County, Mississippi and in 2014 were at least five times higher there than in Summit County, Colorado, where the rates fell."

Researchers found that "for many cancers, there were distinct clusters of counties with especially high mortality. Clusters of breast cancer were present in the southern belt and along the Mississippi River, while liver cancer was high along the Texas-Mexico border, and clusters of kidney cancer were observed in North and South Dakota and counties in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Alaska and Illinois."

Rule to ban horse soring is on hold after Trump orders withdrawal of all unpublished rules

An award winning high-stepper
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's final rule intended to ban soring, the use of chemicals and physical abuse to induce high steps in show horses, is on hold, Michael Collins reports for USA Today. To become effective, the rule, which was announced on Jan. 13, "must be published in the Federal Register. The new rule was supposed to be published Tuesday. But on President Donald Trump’s first day in office last Friday, the White House issued a memorandum for all unpublished rules to be withdrawn and sent back to the relevant agency for review."

"The horse-soring ban is one of dozens of proposed rules that have been frozen," Collins writes. "The delay doesn’t necessarily mean the ban is dead. The Trump administration could review it and decide to move ahead, 'which is what we’re hoping the administration will do,'" said Ketih Dane, senior adviser for equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States. Dane told Collins, “It’s certainly possible the administration could decide to take no action."

The rule states: "Beginning 30 days after the publication of the final rule, all action devices, except for certain boots, are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction. All pads and wedges are prohibited on any Tennessee Walking Horse or racking horse at any horse show, exhibition, sale, or auction on or after Jan. 1, 2018, unless such horse has been prescribed and is receiving therapeutic, veterinary treatment using pads or wedges. This delayed implementation allows ample time to both gradually reduce the size of pads to minimize any potential physiological stress to the horses and prepare horses to compete in other classes."

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack named president and CEO of U.S. Dairy Export Council

Tom Vilsack
Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been named president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, effective Feb. 1, Jessie Scott reports for Successful Farming. "USDEC is a non-profit, independent organization that works to enhance the global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients." Vilsack succeeds Tom Suber, who retired at the end of 2016. Suber had been president since the organization was founded in 1995.

Vilsack's role will be to "provide strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC’s global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs, and trade policy initiatives," Scott writes. "This includes working with industry leaders to develop a long-term vision for building sales and consumer trust in U.S. dairy."

Vilsack told reporters “Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers. I’ve spent my career in public service as a tireless advocate for farmers and American agriculture and can think of no better way to continue this service than by leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council. I look forward to partnering with the dynamic team at USDEC as well as agriculture, food industry, and key stakeholders at home and abroad to advance the council’s mission and strengthen trust in American dairy.”

New administration needs to understand multitude of challenges facing rural America, writes ag lawyer

Jennifer Zwagerman
Rural America, which was largely responsible for electing Donald Trump president, expects the new president to deliver on his promise to "Make America Great Again," Jennifer Zwagerman, associate director of the Agricultural Law Center and director of Career Development at Drake University Law School, writes for The Conversation. "The administration’s first challenge lies with figuring out what rural areas need. That’s a difficult task because there’s not just one 'rural voice,' unified on all issues."

"Rural communities relying on recreation tourism may support increased environmental regulations while those relying on farming or manufacturing may be opposed," she writes. "Farmers may support international trade agreements that open markets to crops, while those in manufacturing fear the loss of jobs. The concerns of rural West Virginia will not be the same as those of rural Wyoming."

A good start in giving rural areas a national voice was Trump picking former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she writes. "Many Americans may feel like this particular Cabinet nomination doesn’t impact their everyday lives, but that is a misconception. USDA is responsible for areas beyond agriculture, including food, nutrition and rural development. Rural America is important to all Americans because it is a primary source for inexpensive and safe food, affordable energy, clean drinking water and accessible outdoor recreation."

"In nominating Perdue to head the USDA, the key agency charged with supporting rural America, Trump has picked someone with strong agricultural and rural roots," she writes. "Perdue has years of experience in the agriculture and trade sectors. As governor of Georgia, he oversaw a state in which 108 of 159 counties are designated rural because they have populations under 35,000."

"But rural America is about more than farming," she writes. "Rural communities are also the home of many of the country’s energy production resources, such as coal mining, renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, wind and solar energy, and gas and oil production. Approximately 20 percent of the manufacturing industry is located in rural America.What rural America demanded with this election is a seat at the table. Getting one may be a challenge considering approximately 80 percent of elected officials do not represent rural areas. What they and the new president need to understand is that strong rural communities benefit us all."

Community newspaper revives monthly S.D. high school paper that was the victim of budget cuts

A community newspaper in South Dakota has revived the local high school's paper, which had been the victim of budget cuts, Sean Stroh reports for Editor & Publisher. Mitchell High School's newspaper is The Kernel because Mitchell is home of the Corn Palace, a building made of corn. It was not only the source for school news, but also provided a course for school credit for aspiring journalists.

When the school paper folded, The Daily Republic, also based in Mitchell, was right there to lend a hand, Stroh writes. Luke Hagen, managing editor of the Republic, told Stroh, “We decided to help because we need future journalists. Editors all over the country will agree with that, but it’s awesome to have an opportunity to actually make a difference, so I didn’t want us to lose out on that chance.”

Stroh writes, "Instead of being offered as a regular class for credit, The Kernel now bears the unique distinction of operating as an after-school club newspaper led by the Republic." The first edition of the monthly paper, about 1,000 are printed by the Republic, was published in October. Each edition "is eight pages and consists of a news, features, sports and opinion section. Typically, students cover on-campus topics, with the opinion pages also featuring a movie column as well."

Best Places map
"Every week, Hagen meets with the staff of The Kernel for about an hour (four students with about five part-timers who write one or two stories/columns for each edition)," Stroh writes. "While Hagen has been the primary leader of the program, the entire Republic staff has been receptive to helping the students if needed." Sara Bertsch, lifestyles and education reporter, assists in the editing and design process of the school paper. She told Stroh, “They are still learning how the newspaper business works and it’s exciting to see them fall in love with it the same way I did in high school. This is where it starts.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ag groups not happy with Trump's decision to pull U.S. out of Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not sitting well with some agricultural groups, Bill Tomson reports for Agri-Pulse. TPP is "a 12-nation trade pact that the Obama administration spent years orchestrating in order to give the U.S. a new leadership role among Pacific Rim countries."  Many of the other nations—Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Malaysia—will likely join a competing 16-member trade deal with China called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Brad Haire, of Western Farm Press, writes, "TPP represents 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product, and according to the Peterson Institute, would have increased overall U.S. exports by $357 billion by 2030. Additionally, TPP was the first regional trade agreement to address the need to coordinate international policy on trade in the products of agricultural biotechnology, a benefit the ASA says it will push to see in any future agreements with TPP partner nations."

Trump called the move "a great thing for the American worker," Chris Clayton reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters "that TPP basically put the U.S. 'on par' with several smaller countries that got great access to the U.S. without great benefit to U.S. companies." Spicer said, "That's not putting the U.S. interests first." He said "the president's trade team would immediately start negotiating bilateral trade deals that would give the U.S. more leverage and flexibility."

American Soybean Association President Ron Moore said in a statement: "Trade is something soybean farmers take very seriously. We export more than half the soy we grow here in the United States, and still more in the form of meat and other products that are produced with our meal and oil. The TPP held great promise for us, and has been a key priority for several years now. We're very disappointed to see the withdrawal today."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement: "We viewed TPP as a positive agreement for agriculture—one that would have added $4.4 billion annually to our struggling agriculture economy. With this decision, it is critical that the new administration begin work immediately to do all it can to develop new markets for U.S. agricultural goods and to protect and advance U.S. agricultural interests in the critical Asia-Pacific region.”

Trump today expected to use executive orders to advance Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines

Canadian Press graphic
President Trump today is expected "to sign executive orders to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, according to sources familiar with the planned announcement," Hannah Northey reports for Greenwire. "TransCanada Corp., the company behind Keystone XL, has made clear its intention to revive the project under the Trump administration. The pipeline, slated to stretch from western Canada in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas and a distribution center in Oklahoma, was rejected by President Obama."

"Energy Transfer Partners LP's $3.78 billion Dakota Access project stalled after failing to secure a critical approval for construction to advance across Lake Oahe in North Dakota," Northey writes. "Plans to build the 1,172-mile oil pipeline sparked nationwide protests after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voiced concerns about the potential for spills and leaks." (Dakota Access Pipeline)

ARC awards $26M to 28 projects for job training in coal-impacted communities in five states

The Appalachian Region Commission last week announced 28 awards of nearly $26 million in coal-impacted communities in five states. ARC said funds will "train more than 7,300 workers and students impacted by the changing coal economy in certificate, credentialing, and other workforce development programs. They will also create or retain more than 2,500 jobs, leverage an additional $31 million from public and private investors and create a more vibrant economic future for Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities."

The biggest award, $3.5 million, goes to Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonsburg, Ky. Funds will "will enable three Eastern-Kentucky education institutions—Big Sandy, Hazard Community and Technical College and Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College—to launch a comprehensive, employer-driven workforce development program focused on building the digital economy and strengthening digital innovation and entrepreneurship across a 16-county region in Eastern Kentucky."

ARC awarded $1.92 million to Bevill State Community College in Jasper, Ala. for the Bevill State Community College POWER 2016 Initiative. "The project will create a new Rapid Training Center at Bevill State’s Jasper campus that will serve as a regional workforce training and job placement hub in northwest Alabama—an area that has been adversely affected by the recent retirement of coal-fired power generation facilities and the closure of multiple coal mines."

Other awards:

  • $1.5 million to West Alabama Works for job training services for growing automotive and advanced manufacturing industries in Western Alabama.
  • $1.5 million to Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Ky. to construct a job training facility focused on: information technology, telemedicine and health sciences, mechatronics and eco-tourism/small business development.
  • $1.5 million to Marshall University Research Corporation in Huntington, W.Va. to assist businesses "return to profitability through the adoption and deployment of emerging advanced manufacturing —primarily 3D printing and additive manufacturing."

For a complete list of awards click here.

Genetically modified non-browning apples to be available in limited release beginning Feb. 1

Okanagan Specialty Fruits photo
The genetically modified non-browning Arctic Apple will soon be on grocery store shelves, Caitlin Dewey reports for The Washington Post. The fruit will be available Feb. 1 in limited release in the Midwest. The apples have received much criticism. Business owners fear the impact that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) might have on marketing, while organic growers fear cross-pollination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said they pose no health risks.

"Critics and advocates of genetic engineering say that the apple could be a turning point in the nation’s highly polarizing debate over GMOs," Dewey writes. "While genetic modifications have in the past been mainly defended as a way to protect crops, the Arctic Apple would be one of the first GMOs marketed directly to consumers as more convenient."

"Industry executives predict the apple could open a whole new trade in genetically engineered produce, potentially opening the market to pink pineapples, antioxidant-enriched tomatoes, and other food currently in development," Dewey writes. "GMO critics say they are hopeful, however, that consumers will continue to show skepticism about the produce. Despite a growing consensus in scientific circles that GMOs pose little risk, environmental and consumer groups have successfuly mounted campaigns against GMOs over the past 30 years, successfully limiting the practice to commodity crops like soybeans and corn."

'Speed dating' event lets farmers pitch products to restaurants

"Speed dating" event for farmers and chefs.
(NPR photo by Dan Charles)
Farmers last week descended on Washington, not for the presidential inauguration, but for a "speed dating" event where they can pitch products to chefs to get local foods on restaurant tables, Dan Charles reports for NPR

Pamela Hess, founder of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, has put on the event the past five years, Charles writes. Hess, who said she "makes sure that each farmer or chef who shows up gets a card with a list of potential matches," told Charles, "We connected folks based on where they're located, what they grow, what they want to buy."

Charles writes, "Plenty of farmers and chefs are looking for these relationships, she says, but they don't happen naturally. Farmers and chefs generally live in different places. They work on different schedules. And according to the executive chef at Blue Jacket, Marcelle Afram, they're often very different people." Afram told Charles, "We have these stereotypes in the industry, the farmer is shy and the chef is ferocious. So some mitigation with a couple of beers might help."

Earthquakes down 31% in Oklahoma in 2016, but total strength of seismic energy release on the rise

Oklahoma earthquakes through Sept. 24, 2016 (USGS graphic)
The Oklahoma Geological Survey recorded 623 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher in 2016, Mike Soraghan reports for Energywire. While that's down 31 percent from the 2015 record total of 903, "some of the quakes were much stronger than in 2015, so 2016 still set a state record for seismic energy release, a measure of strength." In comparison, two of the nation's leading states for earthquakes, California and Nevada, combined for less than 300 in 2016.

"Oklahoma's earthquake swarms have been linked by scientists and state officials to deep injection of drilling wastewater by oil and gas companies," Soraghan writes. "The reduction in quakes has followed a reduction in wastewater injection because of government restrictions and an oil price slump." Prior to the oil and gas boom that began in 2009, Oklahoma averaged only two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher per year.

"In the past few years, oil and gas regulators at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission have directed about 700 disposal wells in the state to close or scale back operations," Soraghan writes. "Because of that, the amount of wastewater being injected deep underground every day has dropped by about 800,000 barrels, or 34 million gallons. But companies struggling with the oil price slump cut injection by at least another 500,000 barrels a day beyond the state's directives. If prices rise, they could increase that much without violating the directives."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Killing of more than 11,000 feral swine in Oklahoma in 2016 just 'a drop in the bucket'

A trap for feral swine in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
(Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry photo)
Despite killing 11,206 feral swine in 2016—a 44 percent increase over 2015—Oklahoma officials said the problem still persists in the state's 77 counties, Kelly Bostian reports for Tulsa World. Scott Alls, assistant state director of the Wildlife Services Division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, "acknowledged that, compared to the statewide population, the 11,000 killed by state agents are probably 'a drop in the bucket.'”

Feral swine are credited with damaging crops, personal property, yards, golf courses and wildlife habitat for native species, Bostian writes. There are no official population estimates for feral swine, which "are able to reproduce before they are 1 year old and might have two litters a year with up to 10 or 12 piglets in each litter." State and federal money funds about $500,000 per year to deal with nuisance animals, such as feral pigs, coyotes and beavers.

Alls said the increase in kills is "a good-news, bad-news scenario," because it "shows that more people are aware of the public services available to fight expanding feral swine problems, but it also probably means the pigs continue to be a growing problem as well," Bostian writes. Alls, who estimated that the number of feral swine killed in 2017 is likely to increase, told Bostian, “Word has gotten out that we have these services, one farmer talks to another. But it’s probably a situation where we have both more awareness and more pigs causing problems.”

How a longtime Republican from Appalachian Pa. ended up at the Women's March on Washington

Joanne Barr marching on Saturday
in Washington D.C. (Post photo by Terrence McCoy) 
Joanne Barr, 54, is rural, white, and until recently, a lifelong Republican, the perfect combination to support President Donald Trump. But on Saturday the Williamsport, Pa. resident was among the thousands participating in the Women's March on Washington to protest the Trump inauguration, Terrence McCoy reports for The Washington Post. Her daughter, Ashley, who also switched from Republican to Democrat, joined her on the trip.

It seemed that most of the protesters were "from Hillary Clinton’s America," large metropolitan or smaller college towns, McCoy writes. "But there were some women, though far fewer in number, who departed the America that fueled the rise of Trump, and this is the America of Williamsport. Located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale formation, Williamsport is a mountainous town of 30,000 residents in central Pennsylvania whose economy and culture "have long been tethered to the vagaries of hard industry—first lumber, then manufacturing, then natural gas—and it anchors a county that is 92 percent white and went 71 percent for Trump,"

Barr, who manages a hardware store, which exclusively employs and caters to white men, "grew up wanting only to marry a man who would take care of everything, and that’s exactly what she got. Bill was everything she was not: confident, effervescent, assertive. He owned two hardware stores and properties across the city, and they raised three children in a big, showy house in a nice part of town. He said he always knew best, and she always believed him, even when he told her not to worry about all of his empty prescription pill bottles and frequent nose bleeds and increasingly erratic behavior. For years she found a way to excuse everything he did, until one night in September 2006, when 'he punched her in her face with a closed fist,' according to the criminal complaint, and told her 'he would ‘kill her’ if she called the police.”

Barr, who said if it had been a few years ago she would have had a Trump sign on her lawn, comes from a family that has always voted Republican, "as had Bill, before he died of a heart attack in 2009 at age 52," McCoy writes. "Barr did, too. But the campaign stirred so many questions, not only about her community but also about herself. How, when her son had struggled with mental illness, could people support someone who mocked a disabled man? How, when she had often felt small in her life, could people cheer someone who demeaned women? Was it Williamsport that had changed? Or was it her?"

"So a few months ago, she took an I’m With Her mug into the hardware store and put up a sign saying 'No Sexism' after hearing customers say degrading things about Hillary Clinton," McCoy writes. "She argued with her boyfriend, who called Barr a 'radical feminist.' She switched her registration from Republican to Democrat and got a tattoo, her first, saying, 'Rewrite an ending or two for the girl that I knew.'”

Why rural America elected a big-city billionaire

How did billionaire Donald Trump, who hails from the nation's largest city, win over rural America and get elected president, largely on his dominance in small towns?

Justin Fox
"City boy Trump was able to get this rural support mainly by harnessing discontent that is present almost everywhere but generally stronger the farther you get from a big, thriving metropolitan area," writes Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox. "There are lots of reasons for that discontent, but I can't help but focus on the economics. And . . . they really don't look good for rural and small-town America. All the trends that have been driving growth toward metropolitan areas—and wealth toward the heart of those metropolitan areas—look set to continue." 

"When Andrew Jackson—the historical president whose anti-establishment tone was probably most similar to Trump's—stormed into office in 1829 on a huge wave of Western and Southern support, he was also riding a huge wave of Western and Southern economic growth that continued throughout his eight years in the White House," Fox writes. "Trump more or less backed into office on a wave of support from areas that have been receding economically for years and will almost certainly continue to do so." (Associated Press map: Percentage-point change in vote margin from Mitt Romney in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016)
"Different federal policies on mining and oil and gas drilling may provide a boost to parts of the West and Appalachia, which isn't nothing, but there doesn't seem to be anything else on the horizon that will suddenly shift growth away from metropolitan America and back toward the hinterlands," he writes.

"None of this is a political forecast. Politics has a habit of surprising people (like me) who focus on demographic and economic trends," he writes. "But demographic and economic trends also have a habit of thwarting the sometimes unrealistic yearnings of voters." (Read more)

RFD-TV founder says Trump's win was not Republican vs. Democrat, but rural vs. urban

Still from an RFD-TV show
The way Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton utilized, or failed to utilize, RFD-TV, which specializes in rural-interest programming and is available in more than 46 million homes, may have been the difference in the presdential election, Cynthia Littleton reports for Variety. Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of RFD-TV, said "in the final two weeks before Election Day, Trump’s team spent $150,000 to buy every available advertising spot on Nashville-based RFD-TV." Clinton didn't by any advertising.

Gottsch told Littleton, “You could really see it turning in the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t find a woman in rural America who was going to vote for Secretary Clinton, and I found that odd.” Gottsch said he doesn't think it even mattered which party Trump belonged to, telling Littleton, “He could have run as a Democrat and won. It was the fact that he was so independent, and the fact that he was willing to tell everyone—Democrats and Republicans—to go to hell. Every time some [Republican] refused to endorse him, people went, ‘Oh good.’ ”

Gottsch, who said his two daughters were Clinton supporters, "chalks the loss up to her lack of outreach in rural areas, in addition to general economic frustration, and the belief that the status quo is 'rigged' against the little guy," Littleton writes. "Despite Trump’s 1 percent status and New York City pedigree, he gained favor because of his image as a maverick billionaire willing to shake up business as usual in Washington."

"In Gottsch’s view, the key to overcoming prejudice on both sides of the urban-rural divide is communication and a better understanding of one another’s worlds," Littleton writes. He told her, “We are not all a bunch of ‘Hee Haw’ hicks. We cannot exist as the U.S. if there is a wall between urban and rural America. We think that our job is to do more to connect city and country again. If we just keep doing ‘Duck Dynasty’ and that kind of thing, we are never going to get to a better understanding of who we are.”

Opioid epidemic giving rise to addicts who go 'vet shopping' for drugs

The opioid epidemic has given rise to a new breed of drug addicts, ones who go "vet shopping" to secure drugs for their pets that they plan to take themselves, Lindsey Bever reports for The Washington Post. "It is not known how widespread the problem really is because there is no conclusive data tracking cases of vet shopping . . . Drugs such as Ketamine, Tramadol and Valium, which are sometimes prescribed to pets, are used by drug addicts either by themselves or in conjunction with other opioids to enhance the effects."

All 50 states and Washington D.C. "have electronic databases known as Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in which physicians can track controlled prescription drugs that are prescribed to patients," Bever writes. "But most states do not require veterinarians to report the prescribing and dispensing of these drugs. And some veterinarians argue that forcing them to do so would put an unnecessary burden on them and keep them from focusing on their jobs—caring for the animals."

But the problem persists, even if it is in its infancy, Bever writes. For example, a veterinarian in Elizabethtown, Ky. in 2014 became suspicious when a patient three times within three months requested Tramadol for their injured golden retriever. Veterinarian Chad Bailey told the Post, “That’s when I took notice. The cut looked sharp and clean—not like the kind in nature when a dog is cut on a fence or in a fight.”

The owner in 2015 was "sentenced to four years on five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by making false statements, a Class D felony, and three counts of torture of a cat or a dog, a Class A misdemeanor," Jeff D'Alessio reports for The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown. Bever notes that the owner was released last month after serving about two years.