rural America

Rural America needs ‘circular economy,’ says Vilsack

Congress could use the 2023 farm bill to promote a “circular economy” that creates jobs and income in rural America rather than relying on rural areas for raw materials that are processed elsewhere, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. “That's an important component of any farm bill discussion of the future,” he told reporters.

USDA announces pilot program for renewable energy in rural towns

Up to $10 million is available to help residents of rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will reduce their energy costs, said the USDA on Wednesday. Funding from the new Rural Energy Pilot Program will be targeted at communities that have been historically underserved by the government.

Ethanol producers to electric car makers: We’re greener than you are

With automakers shifting toward the production of electric cars and trucks, the ethanol industry said on Wednesday that biofuels will be an important tool against global warming, and arguably create less pollution than battery-powered vehicles. The comparison was based on life-cycle costs for the power sources, starting at power stations for electricity and corn fields for ethanol.

The ‘TRIC’ of fostering rural prosperity

Rural communities often look outside of their boundaries for the solution — a new employer or new residents — to their economic doldrums, say the editors of "Investing in Rural Prosperity," published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "We believe rural communities are more likely to achieve these and other common community and economic development goals if ... they build from the inside on the assets they already have," write Daniel Davis and Andrew Dumont.

Covid-19 is worst in persistently poor rural counties

Throughout the pandemic, the highest Covid-19 case rates and the lowest vaccination rates in the country have been found in persistently poor rural counties, the USDA said Wednesday in its annual Rural America at a Glance report. Those counties have also had low unemployment rates, suggesting residents continued to work despite the risk of infection by the coronavirus, said the report.

USDA to spend up to $1.15 billion on rural broadband

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the USDA would spend up to $1.15 billion to bring high-speed internet services to people living in rural communities. The money would be available in loans and grants to providers who offer service with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second in areas that lack high-speed internet.

Torres Small is confirmed as USDA rural development leader

On a voice vote, the Senate confirmed former New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small as agriculture undersecretary for rural development. Torres Small is the second Biden nominee for agriculture undersecretary to be approved by the Senate.

Rural America, mostly white, is becoming more diverse

Three-quarters of rural Americans are white, a larger proportion than the roughly six in 10 for the nation overall, but the rural population is becoming more diverse, said a pair of analyses of Census data. The rural America of the future will be increasingly diverse and not as politically conservative as many assume, said the Brookings Institution. (No paywall)

Covid is killing rural Americans at twice the rate of urbanites

Rural Americans are dying of Covid at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts — a divide that health experts say is likely to widen as access to medical care shrinks for a population that tends to be older, sicker, heavier, poorer, and less vaccinated. (No paywall)

One in seven rural Americans lived in poverty during 2020 pandemic

Nearly 6 million people in rural America had incomes below the poverty line during the pandemic year of 2020, an increase of 315,000 from the preceding year, according to a Census Bureau estimate released on Tuesday. The annual Income and Poverty report indicated that one in seven rural residents lived in poverty, compared to the national average of one in nine.

Ag leaders urge Covid-19 vaccinations in rural America

While nearly half of urban Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the rural rate is much lower — less than four in 10. "We still have so far to go," said the leaders of 30 farm and agribusiness groups on Wednesday in an open letter to their members that encouraged vaccinations to head off the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

USDA awards $167 million for broadband access

Projects in 12 states will receive a combined $167 million in USDA grants and loans to deploy broadband infrastructure in parts of rural America lacking sufficient access to high-speed internet service, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.

House committee approves $43 billion rural broadband bill

On a voice vote, the House Agriculture Committee approved a bill on Wednesday to provide $43 billion over eight years to bring broadband service to hundreds of thousands of families and businesses that lack access now. Chairman David Scott said Democratic leaders were "looking to move this in an expeditious way to the Senate."

House panel: Put the brakes on China-owned farmland in U.S.

China would be barred from buying more U.S. farmland and the land already in its possession would become ineligible for farm subsidies under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. On a voice vote, the provision was added to a $197 billion USDA-FDA funding bill headed for a vote on the House floor.

House, Senate bills boost rural energy funding fivefold

The USDA program that promotes rural renewable energy production and energy efficiency would see annual funding of $250 million along with a $1 billion injection to address a backlog in applications under companion Senate and House bills introduced Thursday.

Former Rep. Torres Small is selected to lead rural development at USDA

President Biden chose former Rep Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico to serve as agriculture undersecretary for rural development, overseeing a portfolio of $43 billion in housing, utilities and business and industry programs. Congress overrode a Trump-era reorganization of USDA to re-create the Senate-confirmed post in 2018.

Opinion: If Biden wants farmers to join his climate fight, he needs a better sales pitch

The president is betting the political farm that American farmers and ranchers are ready to help solve this global crisis. Now Biden and his team have to sell their strategy to farm country, and that will require that they abandon the feckless messaging that Democrats have used for too long, and develop a sales pitch that is more empowering than the GOP’s.(No paywall)

Covid-19 rates in meatpacking counties now mirror other rural counties

Rural counties dominated by meatpacking plants endured their second surge in coronavirus cases during this winter but the latest wave "does not appear to be driven by new outbreaks in the meatpacking industry," said the USDA. "Meatpacking-dependent counties have maintained an almost identical pattern to other rural counties for the last seven months."

Rural prosperity official becomes White House ag adviser

Kelliann Blazek, a former congressional staffer who was the first director of Wisconsin's Office of Rural Prosperity, will serve as the agriculture and rural policy adviser to President Biden, announced the White House.

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