Rural America

Monday, Feb 27, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By Kenneth Johnson

Just What the Heck is “Rural America”?

An old barn on a wind farm.   (Photo: Rural Futures Lab)

Rural people and issues generally receive little attention from the urban-centric media and policy elites. Yet, rural America makes unique contributions to the nation’s character and culture as well as provides most of its food, raw materials, drinking water and clean air. The recent presidential election also reminds us that, though rural America may be ignored, it continues to influence the nation’s future.

“Rural America” is a deceptively simple term for a remarkably diverse collection of places. It includes nearly 72 percent of the land area of the United States and 46 million people. Farms, ranches, grain elevators and ethanol plants reflect the enduring importance of agriculture.

But, there is much more to rural America than agriculture. It includes manufacturing parks, warehouses and food processing plants strung along rural interstates; sprawling exurban expanses just beyond the outer edge of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas; regions where generations have labored to extract, process and ship coal, ore, oil and gas to customers near and far; timber and pulp mills deep in rural forests; industrial towns struggling to retain jobs in the face of intense global competition; and fast-growing recreational areas proximate to mountains, lakes and coastlines.

As a demographer studying rural America, I have documented both remarkable continuity and dramatic changes in the size, composition and distribution of the population spread across the vast rural landscape.


Thursday, Feb 23, 2017, 3:05 pm  ·  By Joseph Bullington

Camp Raid Begins as Standing Rock Eviction Deadline Passes

Oceti Sakowin camp in a state of cleanup and transition in early February, two weeks before the Army Corps of Engineers' eviction deadline.   (Photo: Joseph Bullington)

For weeks the pincer of police, private security and National Guard surrounding the main resistance camp at Standing Rock, in Morton County, N.D., has been slowly closing. On Thursday morning, about 13 days after construction resumed on the final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), these state and federal forces moved in to begin clearing Oceti Sakowin, the main camp where thousands of Native Americans and their supporters, who call themselves water protectors, have gathered for months to oppose the project. Several dozen people remained in camp, however, vowing to stand their ground.


Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017, 9:59 am  ·  By s.e. smith

In Rural America, the Right to Choose is Only Half the Battle

January 23, 1973—The front page of the New York Times one day after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.   (Image: Google Images)

If the culture wars drove the 2016 election and its outcome, one of the most obvious wedge issues deployed by the right was abortion. The question of whether people who are pregnant should be allowed to exercise the right to make a private medical decision should have been settled in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, but in fact, the landmark Supreme Court decision just served to mobilize the right and politicize the subject of abortion to an extreme degree.

On one side: People like President Donald Trump, who remarked in a 2016 town hall that he believed women should be “punished” for getting abortions and vowed to appoint an anti-choice Supreme Court justice. On the other: The 79 percent of Americans who have affirmed that they believe patients should have the right to choose in all or some circumstances.

Somewhere in the silent middle: rural America. 


Friday, Feb 17, 2017, 2:09 pm  ·  By The Cornucopia Institute

Dueling Corporate Interests Await Pending Updates to Organic Animal Welfare Standards

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation to the Department of Agriculture, now pending, calls for organically raised chickens to have access to approximately 2 ft² per bird outdoors. For comparison, European Union organic regulations require 43 ft².   (Image: The Cornucopia Institute)

One of the pending regulations released in the final days of the Obama administration, and put on hold by the Trump White House, was an already controversial rule that pits legitimate family-scale organic farmers against the operators of “factory farms”—industrial-scale operations accused of violating existing organic animal welfare standards. A newly released analysis by The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, explains what is at stake and why economically powerful forces in organics are squawking over new space requirements proposed for chickens.


Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By Robyn Bahr

“Baskets” Portrays Rural, Working Class America Differently and That’s a Good Thing

Now in its second season, Louie Anderson plays Christine Baskets on the FX television series "Baskets."   (Image: FX Networks)

Christine Baskets is unlike any character you’ve seen on television. The heart of FX’s existential comedy Baskets, she is a heavyset, thin-lipped matriarch, simultaneously formidable and endearing. She carries her extra weight like armor, and yet, her body reveals unspoken vulnerability—a lifetime of shame and disappointment. You take one look at her no-nonsense face and immediately want her to like you, to approve of you. A Reagan fangirl, she thinks it’s just as honorable for her child to get a job at Arby’s as it is for him to pursue his art. She’s played by veteran comic Louie Anderson. 


Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By Jim Hightower

The Next Farm Crisis is Here and Farmers Can No Longer Afford to Be Ignored

February 5, 1979—Thousands of economically struggling farmers arrive in Washington D.C. (many after traveling for days on tractors with top speeds of 15 miles per hour) to draw public attention to rising farm debt and unfair federal ag policies. By the end of the day, 17 tractors had been impounded.   (Photo: USDA / National Archives and Records Administration / Iowa Public Radio)

During the farm crisis of the 1980s, an Iowa farmer asked if I knew the difference between a family farmer and a pigeon. When I said no, he delighted in explaining: "A pigeon can still make a deposit on a new John Deere."

That's funny—except, it really wasn't. Worse, the bitter reality of the tractor joke is still true: The farm crisis has not gone away, though hundreds of thousands of farm families have. The economic devastation in farm country continues unabated as agribusiness profiteers, Wall Street speculators, urban sprawlers and corrupted political elites squeeze the life out of farmers and rural America.


Monday, Feb 13, 2017, 6:00 am  ·  By John Collins

The Corporate States of America in Graphic Relief


In 2012, Steve Lovelace, an artist, writer and photographer based in Texas, designed the above map to accompany Corporate Feudalism: The End of Nation States—a self-published blog post in which he likens socioeconomic trends in the early 21st century to those in the Middle Ages and Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune. Lovelace writes, “We are witnessing the end of the nation state and the rise of corporations that control the world’s resources like feudal lords.”

It’s an old idea, but one that’s getting new legs. For starters, though we often differ on who or what to blame, it’s become clear that income inequality isn’t something Bernie Sanders made up for kicks. Millions of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck while Wall Street sets records. The oil, pharmaceutical, agribusiness and telecommunications corporations that already have their respective global sectors cornered are merging and consolidating even further. On the home front, conditions vary but millenials (somehow responsible for most of the planet's problems) are putting forming families on hold, routinely spending 50 percent or more of their stagnant wages on smaller and smaller apartments, defaulting on student loans and sharing each others Netflix accounts—all while getting daily reminders that robots haven’t started replacing the good jobs...yet. (At last count, 44.2 million Americans owe $1.28 trillion in college debt and the deliquency rate stands at 11 percent.) On the other end of the age spectrum, half of American baby boomers have less than $100,000 saved for retirement, and 25 percent have already tapped what little they do have for non-retirement related expenses.

But how bad is it really? How far-fetched is a world in which multinational corporations wield more power than the nation states that cultivated them? How close are we to a new age where a "free" citizen’s access to food, shelter, water or healthcare is influenced less by the policies of an elected government, and more by the whims of a few wealthy, all-powerful oligarchs?

Funny you should ask. 


Wednesday, Feb 8, 2017, 11:33 pm  ·  By Lorraine Chow

Monsanto Expands Louisiana Herbicide Facility, Some Locals Say “Toxic Company” Isn’t Worth the Jobs

St. Charles Parish, L.A.—Monsanto executives pose with shovels on February 4 after announcing $975 million expansion of Luling herbicide facility.   (Photo: Mike Strain / Facebook)

Monsanto has officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, L.A. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.

Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.


Wednesday, Feb 8, 2017, 3:03 am  ·  By Rural America In These Times

Dakota Access Gets Final Approval, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Calls for March in D.C.

(Photo: @jjsnyder76 / Rural America In These Times)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will grant Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the final easement needed to finish construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has opposed the project from its conception, vows to challenge the decision in court.

“The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk,” says Dave Archambault II, tribe chairman, in a statement released late Tuesday. “We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration.”

But Archambault also urged supporters of the #NoDAPL movement not to return to the camps in Cannon Ball, N.D., where many thousands have travelled since August of last year to protest the pipeline. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” says Archambault. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration.” The Standing Rock Sioux, Native Nations of the United States and their allies are organizing a demonstration in Washington D.C on March 10.


Tuesday, Feb 7, 2017, 2:45 am  ·  By Rural America In These Times

USDA Deletes Records of Animal Abuse from Website

(Photo: / Google Images)

On February 3, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) removed thousands of documents pertaining to its enforcement of animal welfare laws from its website. No longer available to the general public, the deleted information includes several years worth of annual inspection reports and agency correspondence that document the mistreatment, abuse and/or death of animals at research facilities, zoos, puppy mills, equestrian exhibitions and other locations.

The USDA released a statement citing privacy concerns as the primary reason for the removal. Animal rights groups, however, say the action purposefully shields from public exposure those profiting from the mistreatment and exploitation of animals.