Poverty rate returns to pre-recession level in rural America

After cresting at 17.7 percent during the slow recovery from the Great Recession, the rural poverty rate is back at pre-recession levels, said the Census Bureau on Tuesday. But the growth in household income that accompanied four years of declines in the poverty rate nationwide has slowed, and …

As Trump’s trade agenda falters, Dems see rural America in play for 2020

After years of effectively writing off rural voters, based on their solid support for the GOP, Democratic candidates for the White House are suddenly turning up frequently in Iowa — where the primary season kicks off in February — and rolling out rural initiatives on everything from ethanol and broadband to crop subsidies and healthcare. 

Digital divide persists, though 53 percent of farms conduct business on internet

More than half of U.S. farm operators say they do business over the internet, a 13-point increase in six years, as ownership of computers and access to the internet blossomed, according to USDA. Nonetheless, the Pew Research Center says rural Americans are much less likely than their city counterparts to have a smartphone or broadband service at home.

SNAP boosted rural employment during the Great Recession

The Obama administration’s increase in food stamp benefits during the Great Recession “had a positive average impact on county-level employment” in rural areas, says a USDA report.

At Iowa forum, Democratic presidential candidates vow to take on Big Ag

Antitrust enforcement took center stage at Saturday’s Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, a platform for Democratic presidential hopefuls to share their visions for rural America. Nearly all of the candidates said tackling consolidation would be part of their rural agenda, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar calling it a main priority. Farmers at the forum were buoyed by the candidates’ attention to an issue that is a top priority for many rural communities that have been hollowed out by the effects of economic concentration and the powerful grip of agribusiness.(No paywall)

In new ag platform, Warren pledges to take on Big Ag

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her agriculture policy platform Wednesday, three days before she is set to participate in a Democratic presidential candidates’ forum in rural Iowa. The platform calls for curtailing consolidation in agriculture by breaking up big agribusiness companies, reversing agriculture mega-mergers, and more. (No paywall)

Rural groups seek larger program to mitigate stress in farm country

Congress put $2 million into a pilot program to address farmer stress and suicide this year, and a coalition of 43 rural and farm groups called today for full funding of the Farmers and Ranchers Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). In a letter to senators and representatives overseeing the USDA budget, the groups proposed $10 million for fiscal 2020, which opens Oct. 1.

One counselor’s lonely struggle against farm country’s mental health crisis

In Minnesota, one of the country’s top farming states, just one man is responsible for dealing with farmers’ mental health needs. As low crop prices and farm closures weigh heavily on farming families, he is joining state legislators and advocates to push for allocating more resources to the pressing issue. (No paywall)

Depopulation woven into parts of rural America

Some 35 percent of rural counties are losing population, many of them in the Great Plains, and an equal portion are growing, say two University of New Hampshire researchers who say the recession of 2008-09 continues to sap rural America. "Depopulation seemingly is now built into the demographic fabric of some parts of rural America," write demographer Kenneth Johnson and policy fellow Daniel Lichter. "Yet, depopulation is far from universal."