Friday, June 26, 2020

Rural counties set record over past week for new covid-19 cases; see the latest county-level data

New rural cases from June 17-24. (Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.)
"For the second week in a row, rural counties have had the highest number of new cases of covid-19 in a seven-day period since the pandemic began. From June 17-24, rural (nonmetropolitan) counties had 23,366 new cases of covid-19," Tim Marema and Bill Bishop report for The Daily Yonder. "The most recent figure broke the previous rural record of 19,022 new cases, which was set the week of June 9-16. Rural America’s cumulative total of covid-19 cases climbed by 13 percent over the last week, from approximately 180,000 cases to 203,000 as of June 24, according to USA Facts. That’s faster than the national rate of growth, which was 9% during the same period.

The Yonder continues to do an outstanding job in tracking and mapping rural coronavirus cases and trends. Click here to read more, including an interactive county-level map, more figures, and charts showing the progression of the pandemic in non-metropolitan counties compared to other counties.

Investigation: several financial tools meant to ensure cleanup of abandoned coal mines near insolvency

As more and more coal companies go bankrupt, the question of abandoned mine cleanup becomes more important. A 1977 federal law required mining companies to set aside money to pay for reclaiming mines, but that system is in jeopardy.

An investigation by climate scientist website DeSmog "found that several key financial instruments meant to guarantee environmental cleanup have been pushed to the brink of insolvency, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars in reclamation costs," Mark Olalde reports.

Internal watchdog says USDA used iffy data for regulation allowing faster line speeds in pork processing plants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture did not evaluate the accuracy of worker safety data it used to make its case for a new hog inspection system that allows plants to run processing lines at unlimited speeds, the Office of Inspector General has concluded," Kimberly Kindy reports for The Washington Post. "The report, which was released Wednesday, also found that USDA was not transparent about the raw data it used in its worker safety analysis, making it impossible for outside experts to evaluate the agency’s conclusions."

Outside experts were unable to evaluate the USDA's conclusions because the agency wasn't transparent about the raw data used in its worker safety analysis, the report also found. 
"When USDA proposed the new rule, which is voluntary for plants, it concluded injury rates for workers would likely be lower in the plants using the new system," Kindy reports. "The new system, which was finalized in October, shifts many food-safety tasks from federal inspectors to pork industry employees and reduces the number of USDA inspectors on slaughter lines in some plants by 40 percent, records show."

Expert offers tips to metro journalists on covering rural pandemic

As the coronavirus continues to spread in rural areas, urban and suburban journalists may want to cover the rural aspects of the pandemic.

Carrie Henning-Smith, deputy director of the University of Minnesota's Rural Health Research Center, offers journalists four tips for covering rural health and health care in the context of covid-19, Sari Boren reports for Journalist's Resource.

Journalists must look at covid-19 rates at the county and town level, not just at the state level, she advises. It's also important not to cover rural areas as homogeneous, and recognize that racial and ethnic minorities face many of the same systemic disparities in rural areas as they do in cities, Boren reports.

Though rural health care systems are often hurting financially and have fewer resources than their larger counterparts, journalists need to recognize that many rural systems are independent, which can be an advantage because it allows them to take action more quickly, Henning-Smith notes. She also recommends that journalists take cues from news outlets experienced in covering rural America, such as The Daily Yonder, Boren reports.

Quick hits: State fairs the latest casualty of pandemic; federal court blocks cancer label on Roundup

Here's a roundup of stories with rural resonance; if you do or see similar work that should be shared on The Rural Blog, email us at

For Appalachian pastors, reopening means walking with the poor and vulnerable. Read more here.

Dartmouth College report finds that rural New Hampshire and Vermont adapted well to the pandemic. Read more here.

Federal court blocks California cancer label on Bayer's Roundup herbicide. Read more here.

State fairs are the latest casualty of covid-19, with at least 15 states canceling theirs. Read more here.

Pandemic proves need for rural grocers. Read more here.

Wood heaters that U.S. regulators deemed too polluting to sell can now be donated to tribal nations and Appalachian communities. Read more here.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

U.S. lost 1/4 of its newspapers in last 15 years, 1/3 of them non-metro, says updated study by UNC journalism professor

Click here for the interactive version of the map, with data by county.
Since fall 2018, 300 more U.S. newspapers have disappeared, bringing the 15-year death toll to 2,100, almost 25% of the 9,000 newspapers that were being published in 2005. That's the upshot of “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?,” a report published Wednesday by Penelope Muse Abernathy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Abernathy writes that the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact have "exposed the deep fissures that have stealthily undermined the health of local journalism in recent years, while also reminding us of how important timely and credible local news and information are to our health and that of our community. This is a watershed year, and the choices we make in 2020 – as citizens, policymakers and industry leaders – will determine the future of the local news landscape. Will our actions – or inactions – lead to an “extinction-level event” of local newspapers and other struggling news outlets, as predicted by some in the profession? Or will they lead to a reset: an acknowledgment of what is at stake if we lose local news, as well as a recommitment to the civic mission of journalism and a determination to support its renewal?"

Abernathy's report, the fourth in a series, tells a national audience something it may not realize, that the vast majority of U.S. newspapers are community papers, and those papers are by far weeklies.

"Weekly and nondaily papers often have an outsized impact on their communities, but in contrast to the dailies, their closing rarely makes headlines outside the community where they are located," Abernathy writes, citing some examples from The Rural Blog.

One-third of the closed newspapers were outside metropolitan areas, the report says. "More than 200 of the nation's 3,143 counties and equivalents have no newspaper and no alternative source of credible and comprehensive information on critical issues. Half of the counties have only one newspaper, and two-thirds do not have a daily newspaper," Abernathy writes. "About 1,800 of the communities that have lost a paper since 2004 do not have easy access to any local news source – such as a local online news site or a local radio station. . . . These are news deserts, with no coverage of issues such as the quality of schools in that community or the spread of an infectious disease. Many are in economically challenged rural places . . . "

The average poverty rate in "news deserts" is 18%, half again the national rate of 12%, the report says. Abernathy cites the Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia, Ark., which GateHouse Media closed in September 2018, with "only 1,600 subscribers in a community of 10,000."

"Most communities that have lost a newspaper are struggling economically," Abernathy reports. "When a community loses its newspaper, coverage of routine local government meetings almost always declines. Without a professional journalist covering those meetings, transparency and government efficiency also decline. Residents in those communities frequently end up paying higher taxes as the cost of government borrowing rises."

And due to the pandemic, "there is “the threat of dozens — even hundreds — more before year’s end.” But Abernathy offers a path for reinventing local news: strong journalism, bolstered by outside sources such as philanthropy; public policies that treat journalism as a public good, including public funding; better digital infrastructure to serve struggling rural areas, and much more.

Project to bring high-tech agriculture jobs to Eastern Kentucky gets boost from the Netherlands government

A start-up that aims to bring more high-tech agriculture jobs—and fresh produce—to Eastern Kentucky, has announced agreements with more than a dozen partners to help make the project a reality, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

AppHarvest founder Jonathan Webb announced last summer that ground had been broken on a 60-acre greenhouse near Morehead, set to open this fall, that he hopes will be the first of many.

The new partners include the government of The Netherlands, several Dutch companies, the University of Kentucky, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Pikeville and Berea College, Estep reports.

"The Dutch government would put a trade office in Kentucky to boost Dutch investment in the state as part of the plan. The Netherlands is a leader in indoor agricultural production, making it the second-largest exporter of agricultural products behind the U.S. despite its tiny land area," Estep reports. "The technology AppHarvest will use was developed in the Netherlands."

White House creates online toolbox to connect rural leaders to federal funding, data and info to help fight drug addiction

White House officials announced Wednesday the launch of the Rural Community Toolbox, an online clearinghouse meant to connect rural leaders with federal funding, data and resources to help fight drug addiction in their communities.

The toolbox includes resources from 16 different federal departments and agencies on more than 40 addiction-related topics, touting itself as a "one-stop shop" for those seeking aid.

The Rural Community Toolbox includes an updated Community Assessment Tool, an interactive resources with county-level data on drug overdose deaths and correlated socioeconomic factors such as education attainment and unemployment. The update includes more data layers, including broadband availability, available drug treatment facilities, concentration of health-care professionals, poverty, and economic development districts. The update also has a rural prosperity index.

Bayer to settle, for more than $10 billion, cases alleging Roundup-cancer link, dicamba crop damage and more

"Bayer will pay more than $10 billion to end tens of thousands of lawsuits filed over its Roundup weedkiller, the company announced Wednesday. The settlement also resolves many other cases over the herbicide dicamba as well as water contaminated with toxic chemicals called PCBs," Bill Chappell reports for NPR. "Many plaintiffs say Roundup's active ingredient — glyphosate — caused them to develop cancer. Roundup was developed by Monsanto, which Bayer bought in 2018 for $63 billion."

The settlement, parts of which are pending court approval, doesn't cover three cases that have already gone to trial, including the case in which a jury awarded a Missouri peach farmer $265 million. "The settlement calls for Bayer to pay from $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve current Roundup lawsuits. The company will also set aside $1.25 billion to fund payouts for potential claims in the future," Chappell reports.

States and counties with the highest share of speeding-related fatalities are ranked; local data are available

A new report shows which states and counties have the most speeding-related fatalities as a share of overall vehicle fatalities. Several largely rural states, including Alaska and Vermont, made the top 15 list, with New Hampshire in the top spot. All 50 states and 593 counties were ranked. Most of the top 30 counties were metropolitan, but many rural counties were on the list of those with the highest proportions of speed-related fatalities.

To create the report for the Governor's Highway Safety Administration, researchers at car-shopping app CoPilot analyzed state and county data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Census Bureau, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2014-18.

Speeding-related fatalities were associated with a number of factors, including alcohol consumption, age, seat-belt usage, driving conditions, and road maintenance. A 2019 GHSA report found that curvy roads, more common in rural areas, are frequently a factor in speeding-related crashes, and that a higher percentage of fatal curve-related crashes happen on rural roads.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Herbicide dicamba is blamed for millions of tree deaths

Leaves on oak tree show damage from herbicide.
(Photo by Illinois Department of Natural Resources)
Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting effort found that dicamba, a herbicide known for drifting over and damaging nearby crops, is also responsible for killing millions of trees in the Midwest and South. That could be devastating news for orchards.

"Forest health experts said trees are being damaged from Indiana to Kansas, from North Dakota to Arkansas. Cupped-up leaves, the most easily recognized symptom, can be seen in towns miles away from agricultural fields, as well as in nature preserves and state parks set aside as refuges for wildlife, experts said," Jonathan Hettinger reports. "In some areas, the damage is so severe that tree mortality is higher than from the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has killed tens of millions of trees across 25 states."

Farmers have been increasingly spraying dicamba and other volatile herbicides, such as 2,4-D, in recent years, Hettinger reports. In early June, a federal court essentially banned sales of dicamba-based herbicides for the next six months, after finding that the Environmental Protection Agency hadn't done its due diligence in 2018 when reauthorizing the chemical until December 2020. The same environmental groups filed another lawsuit with the same complaint about 2,4-D, but it's still pending in court. The EPA said farmers can still spray already-purchased dicamba through July.

In February, a Missouri peach farmer was awarded a $265 million verdict in court after suing Bayer and BASF, alleging that their dicamba-based herbicides had damaged his orchards.

Route Fifty webinar to cover local government crisis response, how reporters can cover pandemic locally

Route Fifty will host a live town hall from noon to 4 p.m. ET Thursday, June 25, to discuss local and state government preparedness in the face of crises, from the pandemic to severe weather to cyberattacks.

The town hall will kick off with a reporter roundtable on coronavirus coverage, featuring Route Fifty Managing Editor Laura Maggi, Senior Editor Alisha Powell Gillis and staff correspondent Kate Queram.

Click here for more information or to register.

Dominion Energy invests in new form of biodigester that helps farmers turn manure and food waste into natural gas

Biodigesters aren't a new concept: Farmers put cow or pig manure in one end, let it percolate for a while, and it produces methane and carbon dioxide. The biogas gets filtered and then added to natural gas pipelines, and farmers get paid for it. Large dairies have been increasingly experimenting with them, trying to make money by tapping into carbon credit programs in California and Oregon.

Biodigesters are fiddly and many don't work well, so they haven't been widely adopted. But that may change, because one energy consultant recently realized that they work much better when farmers add food waste to them in addition to the manure, Jim Morrison reports for The Washington Post.

Consultant Bill Jorgenson theorized that adding food waste would "increase the energy output and boost the income for farmers through tipping fees from manufacturers, retailers and others looking to unload food waste," Morrison reports. "Best of all, it would use methane from the manure, instead of venting it into the atmosphere to contribute to climate change.

Five farms partnered with Jorgenson to found AGreen Energy LLC, which was snapped up by Vanguard Renewables in 2014 and expanded in New England. Now Dominion Energy, "which is now investing more than $200 million to join with Vanguard to capture manure methane from dairy farms in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Georgia and Nevada and convert it into natural gas," Morrison reports. "Dominion will own the projects and sell the gas. Vanguard will design, develop and operate the biodigesters. Farmers get paid for hosting the digester and benefit from the byproducts of the process, including heat for their property, livestock bedding and fertilizer."

Dominion's investment could make biodigesters much more common; there are 255 in the U.S. today. It's unclear how much biodigesters could help the environment. Cows produce methane when they burp, but that accounts for only a small percentage of the overall methane in the atmosphere. "But processing methane from farms into natural gas helps reduce the carbon footprint for companies such as Dominion, which has pledged to reach net zero emissions from methane and carbon dioxide by 2050,: Morrison reports.

A small number of counties, most in the Southeast, have over half of new rural covid-19 cases; see county-level data

Rural covid-19 hotspots (Daily Yonder map; click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.)
"More than half of the latest new covid-19 cases in rural America came from a small number of hotspot counties, most of which are in the Southeastern United States," Tim Murphy and Tim Marema report for The Daily Yonder. "A total of 138 rural counties accounted for approximately 11,300 of the 18,400 new cases originating in rural areas from June 14-21. Those localities represent just 7 percent of rural counties but over 50% of new cases. Seventy-seven of the hotspot counties are in the Southeast: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia."

Click here for an interactive map, a searchable database, and lists with state- and county-level rankings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trump adviser walks back comment that trade deal is 'over' as China says it will step up U.S. crop purchases

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday walked back his earlier remarks that the U.S.-China trade pact was 'over', stoking volatility in markets already frazzled by the coronavirus pandemic," Eric Beech reports for Reuters. "Navarro said his comments were taken 'wildly out of context'." President Trump said in a tweet that the deal was "fully intact."

Earlier on Monday, Navarro said "it's over" when Fox News asked him about the trade agreement, saying it began going downhill immediately after the Phase 1 deal was signed Jan. 15. He said U.S officials learned about the pandemic immediately after the trade delegation left, and China "had already sent hundreds of thousands of people to this country to spread that virus," Beech reports.

Navarro, a longtime critic of China, said his remarks had nothing to do with the trade deal itself, and was only speaking to his lack of trust in the Chinese government, accusing them of lying about the origins of the coronavirus and causing it to spread to the rest of the world, Beech reports. 

The pandemic and other factors such as African swine fever and recent national security disputes have jeopardized the trade deal, in which China has promised to increase purchases of American farm products by $32 billion over two years. But the deal has been in trouble since nearly the beginning, since China has not sufficiently increased its purchases. In fact, farm exports to China recently fell behind pre-trade-war levels, Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture.

Chinese officials announced yesterday that they plan to increase purchases of U.S. farm goods to catch up on its commitments under the trade deal, McCrimmon reports.

Rural lawyer, 50 years on, offers ideas on police reform

Larry Webster
After 50 years of working as a criminal-law attorney in far Eastern Kentucky, Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Larry Webster offers insight on rural law enforcement and suggestions for what must change, in light of the thousands of recent demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.

Some of the best people he's ever known are police officers, but he's also known a few bad eggs, including one officer "who was hell-bent on killing somebody someday, and one day did," Webster writes. "Everybody knew he would kill, but how do you get rid of such a person? I have presented cases to juries of handcuffed old men being beaten in public by uniformed officers, of shootings without cause done by law officers, and have yet to get a single vote from one of those jurors against the police. This enables the occasional policeman who would cross the line. The fact that juries are afraid of the police also means that a very few horrible cops can embarrass the rest by public murder."

Webster suggests two fundamental changes to law enforcement, but warns that they're not quick fixes. "First, police must quit honoring their unwritten code of silence by which it assumed that one policeman will not tell on another. That is dishonorable and should be taught as such. That code instantly makes any bystanding cop an accomplice to a crime being committed by another policeperson," Webster writes. "Secondly, they have got to quit arresting people for piddly stuff."

Rural families struggle with finding child care

Rural families are more likely to live in child-care deserts, meaning areas where demand for licensed child-care programs far outstrips local supply, according to a newly published data analysis by University of Minnesota researchers and the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

"The first-of-its-kind nationwide portrait shows that . . . rural families nationwide had the fewest child-care slots relative to demand across all categories, the researchers found," Amanda Becker reports for The Washington Post. The study also found that, on average, areas with large Latino populations and households with a combined income of $75,000 to $85,000 were the most likely to be in child-care deserts.

"The analysis comes as the coronavirus pandemic has upended an already tenuous child-care landscape," Becker reports. "Industry groups predict that one-third to half of child-care programs may close permanently without significant public investment, and many economists warn as much as $50 billion may be needed to assist the industry as parents attempt to return to work."

Congressional Democrats and Republicans have proposed bills with billions in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services' already-existing Child Care and Development Block Grant, which gives states and tribes funding to help lower-income workers access child care, Becker reports.

Rural stroke survival rates worse, partly because rural hospitals don't quickly transfer patients to bigger hospitals

Rural stroke patients have less access to newer treatments and substantially higher mortality rates than their urban counterparts, according to a newly published study in the journal Stroke.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis examined records for more than 790,000 patients who had strokes in 2012-17. The study is the first of nationwide rural-urban comparison after modern stroke treatments became available. Past studies have focused on single medical centers or individual states, or were conducted before modern care was available.

The researchers found that the more rural the hospital, the higher the mortality rate, with 27 percent of patients in the most rural areas dying. They also found that more rural patients were less likely to get either of two advanced stroke treatments.

It's unrealistic to expect small, rural hospitals to be able to perform advanced, specialized procedures, senior author Karen Joynt Maddox, an assistant professor of medicine, said in a press release. But such hospitals must recognize when patients need more advanced treatment and transfer them quickly, and health systems don't have consistent, widespread procedures in place to do so.

"Our data suggest rural patients are missing out on access to more advanced stroke therapies and that action is needed to address these disparities and ensure that people can get the care they need, no matter where they live," Joynt Maddox said. "In this day and age, it’s unacceptable that people don’t have access to advanced care. But since stroke therapy is complex, solutions are not going to be one-size-fits-all. We need to think fundamentally differently about how we deliver stroke care in rural areas to begin reducing these disparities."

Weekly's subscription appeal says it swims against trends that are killing newspapers, some self-inflicted, and gets support with investigative journalism and profiles of success

Les Zaitz
By Les Zaitz, Editor and Publisher
The Malheur Enterprise, Vale, Oregon

Allow me to share with you observations about what's happening to the press these days.

The Independent Observer in Payette is scheduled to put out its last weekly edition this week, the final turn for a paper that’s been around since 1890.

The paper is owned by Wick Communications, an Arizona-based company that also owns the Argus Observer in Ontario. The Argus has had its struggles, stopping one day of publication as the pandemic took hold.

This isn’t isolated in today’s America and it’s something that should matter to you. When sources of news disappear, people know less about their community. There is nothing good to come from that.

In state after state, communities are about to experience what it’s like to not know what public officials are doing with their money, to not know about plans for school in the fall, to not know how local businesses made it through this awful time.

The toll grows of local newspapers gone.

The Hastings Star Gazette in Minnesota. The De Smet News in South Dakota. The Hendricks County Flyer in Indiana. The Keota Eagle in Iowa.


The reasons newspapers fail or trim back print days or cut staffing are as varied as the communities they serve.

Advertising that sustained newspapers plummeted. Businesses have shifted billions to digital marketing.

Across the country, locally-owned businesses closed down, run over by chain-store behemoths. When they close, their support for community news disappears.

And big corporations want strong profits for their shareholders. They run newspapers first as a source of cash, not of community service.

But some newspapers have done this to themselves. They don’t pay enough attention to serving the community. They don’t provide the watchdog reporting that is the duty of a free press. And they demonstrate bias, leaving readers wondering if they are reading a newspaper or a political organ. That’s especially true of big national newspapers.

At the Malheur Enterprise, we are swimming hard against every one of those currents.

Our business model relies increasingly on readers paying for our work. That’s why we charge separately for a print subscription and a digital subscription.

Our team at the Enterprise works hard to make that service is worth $5 a month.

No one else has more closely monitored on county spending and the questionable Nyssa rail project. No one else questioned an Ontario city councilor over allegations about his behavior. And no one else questioned a powerful local medical provider over its troubling service to the community.

And no one else spotlights local success like the Enterprise. We’ve been running a series, for instance, highlighting teachers who found a way to make distance learning work for kids. That’s an antidote to lots of coverage elsewhere about the failings of such schooling.

This blend of investigative work and community profiles in success appears to be what you and other readers want.

As a result, our subscription rolls grow by the week, contrary to national trends. We have more followers on our Facebook page and our Twitter page than our daily competitor in Ontario. That’s striking because until just a few years ago, the Enterprise had neither.

We’ve been creative at bringing in resources. Our partnerships in recent years with national organizations such as Pro Publica, Report for America and the Solutions Journalism Network have brought us expertise – and money. That money circulates right here in Malheur County.

We’ve created a donor base and gotten financial support from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication to support our paid intern program. Four interns are at work for the community right now – four jobs bringing four paychecks into Malheur County.

Will this all keep the Enterprise alive and strong? That’s the idea, of course.

But nothing is for certain and there remains the reality that economic forces could one day shutter the Enterprise.

That day won’t come if we keep up our promise to serve the community and readers keep up their support. This is a partnership, and the Enterprise counts on you. If you are a subscriber or donor, you can claim a share of our success. If you don’t subscribe, do so. Maybe getting news for free seems like a good deal – until there is no longer any news to get, as the folks in Payette County are finding out.

Subscribe to Malheur Enterprise

Monday, June 22, 2020

Fox poll shows Trump's rural edge way down from 2016

The margin by which the Republican presidential candidate won the nationwide rural vote in the last three elections, compared with the rural margin in the most recent Fox News poll. (Daily Yonder chart; click the image to enlarge it.)
The latest Fox News poll found that President Trump has only a 9-point lead over former vice president Joe Biden, less than one-third of Trump's rural advantage in the last election.

"In 2016, Trump won the rural vote by 33 points — 64 percent compared to Hillary Clinton’s 31 percent. In key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Trump’s advantage with rural voters was decisive," Tim Marema and Bill Bishop report for The Daily Yonder. "If Trump’s rural support really is running at about one third of the 2016 level, that spells trouble."

However, Bishop and Marema note that the electoral college tends to give more weight to rural states, so it's unclear how much trouble Trump is in. Read more here for a deeper dive into how the rural vote played out in 2016 and what today's numbers could mean for Trump this November.

Tuesday livestream on rural disaster response in pandemic

The Rural Assembly and Southerly Magazine will host a livestream at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday, June 23, to discuss how frontline communities are preparing for and adapting to climate change-spurred disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires during the covid-19 pandemic. Southerly founder Lyndsey Gilpin will moderate a panel of experts from across the country, including:
  • Dr. John Cooper, assistant vice president for public partnership and outreach and director of Texas Target Communities'
  • Shirell Parfait-Dardar, traditional chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw;
  • Steve Wilensky, President of Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions and former supervisor of Calaveras County, California.
Click here for more information.

Federal appeals court says farmers may spray existing stores of dicamba, as EPA said they could

On Friday, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion from environmental groups to force states to halt farmers' use of the herbicide dicamba and hold the Environmental Protection Agency in contempt. 

"The decision is an important win for the EPA, which obeyed the Ninth Circuit's June 3 order to vacate three dicamba registrations but allowed farmers and commercial applicators to continue applying 'existing stocks' of XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan through July 31," Emily Unglesbee reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. "That means EPA's existing-stocks provision still stands, and growers can continue using any stocks of those herbicides in their possession as of June 3, as long as they obey the former federal labels and any existing state regulations on dicamba use. Keep in mind that some states have already exceeded or are nearing dicamba cutoff dates."

The case centers around the EPA's reauthorization of dicamba in 2018, which expires in December. The court had ruled that the agency did not perform due diligence regarding the chemical's tendency to vaporize and drift to other fields, damaging crops that aren't genetically engineered to resist it. EPA will likely reauthorize dicamba again in December. 

Experts say we're still in first wave of pandemic; June 25 webinar to discuss pandemic, politics, protests, economy

Coronavirus cases in the U.S., including confirmed and probably cases. Overall cases total more than 2.3 million, with 120,128 deaths. (New York Times chart. Click the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version.)
Some pundits and news stories have seen or forecast a "second wave" of coronavirus cases in the U.S., but scientists generally agree that we're still in the middle of a rising first wave, driven by recent increases in the South and West. Click here (or read more below) about a June 25 webinar that will discuss the second wave of the pandemic and more.

"About 120,000 Americans have died from the new virus and daily counts of new cases in the U.S. are the highest they've been in more than a month," Mike Stobbe reports for The Associated Press. "Clearly there was an initial infection peak in April as cases exploded in New York City. After schools and businesses were closed across the country, the rate of new cases dropped somewhat." But that was more of a plateau, not a drop in cases, says disease researcher Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University, a leading tracker of coronavirus and covid-19 data.

Some areas have seen a drop in cases, but overall cases have increased. Deciding whether it's a first second wave is essentially a matter of semantics, but it matters because people may feel a false sense of security if they hear that the first wave has passed, University of Michigan flu expert Dr. Arnold Monto told Stobbe.

"Some worry a large wave of coronavirus might occur this fall or winter — after schools reopen, the weather turns colder and less humid, and people huddle inside more. That would follow seasonal patterns seen with flu and other respiratory viruses," Stobbe reports. "And such a fall wave could be very bad, given that there's no vaccine or experts think most Americans haven't had the virus."

The lingering pandemic is still weighing down the economy. While 2.5 million people have returned to work, unemployment claims remain near level because jobs are being lost at almost the same rate that the temporarily unemployed are returning to work, Lawrence Fuller writes for Seeking Alpha.

"The greatest risk to our economic recovery was that a second wave of coronavirus would hit us in the fall, forcing states to shut down a second time to contain it. That is no longer a risk, because a second wave is out of the question. The first wave never ended . . . due to the premature openings in states like Florida, Texas, Arizona and the Carolinas," Fuller reports. "This surely won't stop the younger crowd from crowding into bars and restaurants or partying on the beaches, but it will force the older crowd to curtail their activities, and they are the ones with the money. For an economy that is 70% dependent on consumer spending, that is a death knell."

Newswise will host a Zoom webinar at 2 p.m. ET June 25 to discuss the pandemic, the economy, recent protests and politics. The webinar is free and will take about an hour. Guests will include Anne Bailey, a history professor at SUNY Binghamton who specializes in African-American history; and Eli Rosenberg, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at SUNY Albany.

Baptist church in Alabama an example of how politics can fracture faith communities