Rural America

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017, 8:13 am  ·  By John Collins

Trump Nominates a Secretary of Agriculture (and, No, It’s Not Wendell Berry)

April 17, 2006—Governor Sonny Perdue signs the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (SB529) into law in Atlanta.   (Photo: Barry Williams / Getty Images)

Filling the last remaining vacancy on his incoming administration’s cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue for secretary of agriculture. The announcement puts an end to weeks of mounting speculation over who (on Monday, January 23, presumably at around 9:00 a.m.) will be showing up to replace Tom Vilsack as the Department of Agriculture’s new boss. (Vilsack resigned from the post one week early and is reportedly taking his talents to the U.S. Dairy Export Council.)

Once confirmed and sworn in, Perdue will have the unenviable task of navigating a third straight year of declining net farm incomes, pushback from farmers and ranchers on Obama-era environmental regulations, heavily-leveraged family farms struggling to compete, a massive global agribusiness industry hell bent on consolidation and, perhaps most importantly, the drafting of the 2018 farm bill—an omnibus law revisited by Congress every five years that governs myriad aspects of our food supply.

On the human side of the equation, millions of American grocery shoppers increasingly want to know what they’re eating, where it comes from, whether or not it’s been treated with chemicals and/or if it’s been genetically engineered in a laboratory. The world’s largest purveyors of insecticides, herbicides, patented seeds and heavily-processed food would much prefer these details remain a mystery and lobby accordingly. Caught in the middle, most farmers just want to make a decent, reliable living that doesn’t involve jumping through unnecessary hoops for a hyperactive Uncle Sam. Depending on where a secretary of agriculture’s sympathies lie, he (or she) can tip the scales one way or another on a number of important issues.

Here’s what we know about Sonny Perdue: 


Tuesday, Jan 17, 2017, 10:00 pm  ·  By Thomas Linzey

Community Rights: Because Climate Conferences Won’t Stop Climate Change

Middleflield Neighbors, a grassroots anti-fracking group from the small town of Middlefield, N.Y., demonstrate their opposition to fracking within their town's borders. In 2012, though two state supreme courts upheld local zoning laws that banned fracking within three upstate New York towns (including Middlefield), oil companies sued the municipalities and won. This has been happening all over the country.   (Photo and caption:

Nations around the world have been meeting for more than two decades to solve the looming problem of climate change. During their most recent gathering—held last November in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh—they intended to iron out some of the glaring issues remaining from the much-lauded 2015 Paris Agreement.

In Paris, countries agreed on a goal to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is a threshold that scientists generally agree is the point of no return. Yet, shockingly, almost everyone agrees that the Paris accord—even if completely enforced—would fail to achieve that goal.


Friday, Jan 13, 2017, 8:25 pm  ·  By Rural America In These Times

New CDC Study Finds Big Difference Between Rural and Urban Mortality Rates

The "stroke belt" is typically defined to include the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In 1980, these eleven states had age-adjusted stroke mortality rates more than 10 percent above the national average.   (Image:

From 1999 to 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracked the leading causes of death in nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas in the United States. They compared the regional mortality data to determine how many deaths could likely have been prevented, assuming the death rates of states with the lowest rates occurred across all states.

The report finds not only that unintentional injury deaths are nearly 50 percent more likely in rural areas than they are in cities, but that distance to emergency medical care, the ongoing opiod crisis, obesity rates and other factors all leave rural Americans at higher risk of early death. Below is the CDC's full press release and links to their research. 


Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017, 7:29 pm  ·  By Dan Flynn

Rural America Still Waiting to See Who Trump Taps for Secretary of Agriculture

(Photo: Christine Ruddy / Shutterstock)

When the bitter cold began spreading over rural America last month, the parlor guessing game around many a wood stove was guessing who President-elect Donald J. Trump would name as secretary of agriculture. But the time for that game has passed.

The past three presidents all named their ag bosses by the end of the December before they took office. President Obama had not only named former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, but got him confirmed by the U.S. Senate in time to take office on January. 20, 2009. Trump is now just two weeks out from being sworn in as 45th president of the United States, and has not yet named anyone to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017, 12:27 pm  ·  By Coral Beach

FDA Grants Additional Time for Citizens (and Food Companies) to Define ‘Healthy’

Last year, Kind LLC filed a "citizen petition" with the Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to update their definition of healthy.   (Image: / kind llc)

Four months wasn’t long enough for some in the food industry to figure out how they want the FDA to define “healthy” for use on food labels, so the agency has extended the comment deadline on the topic for another three months.

The Food and Drug Administration’s deadline for public comments on the topic is now April 26, which is a month longer than at least one extension request sought.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association asked that the January 26 deadline be extended to March 26, citing year-end activities and holiday scheduling as part of the reason it needed more than four months to develop and submit comments.


Friday, Jan 6, 2017, 3:00 pm  ·  By Rural America In These Times

The Food Movement Has People and Can Make the World a Better Place…But It Will Need Land

Stan Crawford leads Our Land 2 attendees on an Acequia Walk in Dixon, N.M.   (Image: Agrarian Trust)

In November, Agrarian Trust held its second “Our Land” symposium in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M. The Trust, a collaboration between the Schumacher Center for New Economics and Greenhorns, a grassroots network for young agrarians, is working to secure land access for the next generation of farmers. This is important. In the next 20 years, as today’s farmers age and retire, American Farmland Trust estimates 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. “Hands” plural might be optimistic. Without intervention, the increasing value of farm real estate nationwide will continue to price-out new entrants to farming. Furthermore, as those acres hit the open market they are likely to go where the money is. These days, that usually means becoming disembodied terrestrial testing grounds for our always-expanding, always-consolidating multinational agribusiness corporations as they pursue new and cutting-edge petro-chemical applications (for us to eat).

Over several days, Our Land 2: Tracing the Acequia Commons featured speakers from many facets of the sustainable food movement—farmers, conservationists, water experts, people from frontline communities, artists, activists, professors and lawyers—who focused on what it will take to build a less diabolical food system in the United States. 


Tuesday, Jan 3, 2017, 11:30 am  ·  By Scott Russell

In Minnesota, St. Paul Public Schools Make Indigenous History Part of the Curriculum

Founded near historic Native American settlements as a trading and transportation center, the city of St. Paul rose to prominence when it was named the capital of the Minnesota Territory in 1849.   (Image: Reddit /

Healing Minnesota Stories (HMS), an initiative of the Saint Paul Interfaith Network, works “to promote understanding and healing between Native American and non-Native people” in the state through the sharing of stories.
The HMS website puts it this way:

Our starting point is an understanding that Native people have suffered deep trauma over many years, losing their land, language and culture, and all who call Minnesota home are the lesser for it. While many people and institutions contributed to that trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. We all still need healing, healing is doable, and churches have a role to play. We are calling ourselves Healing Minnesota Stories because we believe in the healing power of stories. Stories heal because they make invisible pain visible.

The following HMS post, edited for clarity, explains how the St. Paul public school district’s Multicultural Resource Center is adopting a program in which all fifth grade students will go on a day-long field trip to six sacred Dakota sites in the Twin Cities area.


Tuesday, Jan 3, 2017, 11:00 am  ·  By Scott Russell

In Minnesota, St. Paul Public Schools Make Indigenous History Part of the Curriculum (Part II)

Left: "Father Hennepin at the Falls of St. Anthony" (1905) hangs in the Minnesota state Capitol. Right: Capitol visitors check out alternative artwork created by K-12 students.   (Photo: / Healing Minnesota Stories)

Healing Minnesota Stories has written at length about the art in the Minnesota State Capitol and its stereotyped and offensive representations of Native peoples. We have also written about our art project that teaches students about Capitol art and challenges them to create their own alternative. Art teacher Rachel Latuff took the lead in creating this program and it has now been replicated in more than a half dozen schools.

Now, St. Paul Public Schools’ Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) is replicating the project districtwide. It is the most ambitious project yet, and we are very grateful for the partnership.


Friday, Dec 23, 2016, 11:44 pm  ·  By Thomas Linzey

Rigged: How Our Legal System Prevents Communities from Governing Themselves

(Image: Community Rights Lane County)

In 2015, residents of several rural Ohio counties watched in shock as Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted unilaterally removed citizen-sponsored initiatives from county ballots. The initiatives, which had already qualified for the ballot, would have banned oil and gas drilling and fracking in those communities.

The Ohio Supreme Court sharply rapped Husted’s knuckles for using authority he didn’t have. However, a year later, the people of those same counties watched in disbelief as Husted again blocked their initiatives. This time, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed his actions.


Wednesday, Dec 21, 2016, 1:28 pm  ·  By John Collins

Creatures from the Corporate Lagoon: Trump Fills Swamp with Billionaires, Bankers and Oilmen

(Image: Experience Project)

Only a cosmically conflicted Gemini could pull off Donald Trump’s working class billionaire routine. In hindsight, Hillary Clinton, a Scorpio worth only tens of millions, didn’t stand a chance. Now two things are clear. One, it would be fun to watch Donald Trump swing an actual hammer. Two, Wall Street is going to be just fine...until it’s not.

True, the President-elect is facing criticism from those who fail to see how assembling a crack team of plutocrats will help the working class. But this dissent, we’re told by the administration-in-waiting, is mostly emanating from a bitter mainstream media—the same bunch of easily offended losers who spent the last year getting things so damn wrong. #Sad. At any rate, anti-establishment vengeance has been achieved. Or has it?