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.

USDA to invest $464 million in renewable energy infrastructure in rural communities

The USDA will invest $464 million to strengthen electric service in rural communities through smart-grid technology and help agricultural producers and businesses add renewable energy systems to lower energy costs and build climate-smart energy capacity in 48 states and Puerto Rico, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday. 

Solar leases more popular than carbon contracts among farmers

The relative handful of farmers who have signed carbon sequestration contracts is half the size of the group that has leased land for solar electricity production, said Purdue University on Tuesday. Solar leases, which may exceed $1,000 an acre annually, are more lucrative than the rates offered for carbon capture.

Biden backs ‘right to repair,’ from tractors to tech

President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment, said the White House on Tuesday. The "right-to-repair" rules were expected to include smartphones and other widely used devices.

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.

Biden proposes $100 billion to bring broadband to all Americans

President Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure package — "a once-in-a-generation investment in America" — on Wednesday that calls for spending $100 billion to deliver affordable and reliable broadband service to all Americans. The package also proposed a $5 billion Rural Partnership Program to support locally led initiatives to create jobs and economic growth in rural America.

Record-high ag subsidies to supply 39 percent of farm income

Despite the effects of the pandemic and the trade war, U.S. farm income this year will be the highest since 2013 because of the largest federal payments ever — $46.5 billion, triple the usual amount, the government said on Wednesday. Think tank analysts said farm income would fall in 2021 with the expiration of Trump-era bailouts, but the drop-off will be lessened by the ongoing rally in commodity prices and increased ag exports.

Perdue tempers optimism on ‘phase one’ ag sales to China

Five weeks after saying he was hopeful China would import $36.6 billion of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is less certain the target will be met. A spate of sales to China during August and September has raised hopes in farm country that the goal, set in the "phase one" trade agreement, would be met despite a slow start.

Q&A: A rural Montana school district scrambles keep kids fed during pandemic

Like school nutrition staff across the country, Marsha Wartick, food service director for the Ronan School District in tiny Ronan, Montana, spent the last six months feeding hungry kids and their families under a USDA emergency meals program. Now, as kids head back to school, Wartick is scrambling to react to mixed signals from the administration and hoping the emergency program is allowed to continue through the entire school year. (No paywall)