Update: Rural America Left Behind in Lifeline Reform

National Grange President, Betsy Huber, has expressed serious concern with H.R.4884, the CURB Lifeline Abuse Act with.  In a letter to House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Walden (R-OR-2), Ranking Member Eshoo (D-CA-18) and bill sponsor Scott (R-GA-8), Huber acknowledged Congress’ concerns with fiscal responsibility of the Lifeline program, but opposed the proposed two-year phase-out of mobile voice Lifeline service in favor of broadband service.  However, major portions of rural America still have no broadband access and that is a problem.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE LETTER

National Grange Newsletter – The Patrons Chain April 2016 Issue

Untitled-1 copyThe newly redesigned National Grange newsletter is now available.  Check out the April 2016 issue complete with valuable Grange Month information, 150th Annual Convention news and a whole lot more.  Receive this and other issue via email by subscribing to our e-newsletter.  Submit our email address to information@nationalgrange.org to join our mailing list.

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Registration is now open for the 150th National Grange Annual Convention

Picture1On-line registration is now open!! Please take advantage of the $25.00 early bird registration and save $5.00.  You can register now through September 2nd to receive this savings.  After September 2nd, registration fee is $30.00.  On-line registration ends October 28th.

Please join us for the 150th Annual Convention of the National Grange hosted by the Eastern Region! Come join your Grange friends from across the nation at The Hilton Dulles Airport Hotel located in Herndon, Virginia November 15 – 19, 2016.

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Policy Updates and News April 2016

Rural Issues

Lifeline Telephone Reform Harmful

The Lifeline Program is a federal initiative that provides discounted low volume landline or wireless phone service to low income households.  The National Grange is strongly urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rethink and revise a reform proposal that would eliminate wireless Lifeline telephone service.  The FCC proposal would shift the federal Lifeline program to broadband.  The problem is that half of those living in rural areas either do not have broadband available or can’t access broadband at speeds high enough for timely transmission in an emergency.  That fact is not expected to change much in the foreseeable future.  National Grange President Betsy Huber wrote FCC Secretary Dortch explaining this real-world disconnect and urged the FCC to revise the proposal to allow for continued Lifeline wireless phone use.  Huber also penned op-eds that were picked up in the Washington Times, Agri-Pulse (the nation’s most read daily food and ag e-newsletter) and Morning Consult (a daily e-newsletter for the corporate and business world).

Secure Rural Schools

The Secure Rural Schools program provides assistance to rural counties and school districts affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands.  Historically, rural communities and schools relied on a share of timber harvest receipts to supplement local funding for educational services and roads but federal policies have substantially reduced timber harvest in recent years.  The original authorizing legislation, Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, expired in September, 2015 and must be reauthorized by Congress.  In the meantime, USDA through the Forrest Service has allocated $272 million to 41 states and Puerto Rico for FY’16.

Legal Issues

 Supreme Court Agrees to Review Case Supported by Grange Amicus

In January, the National Grange, along with the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Leadership Fund, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling and remedies imposed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the high profile Apple vs. Samsung case over design patent infringement of certain smartphones. The Grange argued that damages awarded to Apple by the lower court were equal to total profits for each infringing device, which would seriously impede innovation and become an incentive for troll-like litigation looking to take advantage of a quick payday. In support of our position, National Grange Executive Committee member Leroy Watson penned an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner urging the Court to review the case. The Court agreed to review the case and will hear arguments this fall.

Food Issues

GMO Labeling Controversy

The House of Representative s several months ago passed voluntary labeling legislation to preempt all state legislation requiring genetically modified ingredient labeling on food.  The Senate failed to muster the 60 vote majority required to pass the preemption legislation. Unless Congress passes a uniform national labeling standard by July 2016, a Vermont law will go into effect mandating GMO labeling.  New bills in Massachusetts and Rhode Island largely mirror the Vermont law while legislation in Connecticut would remove the trigger provisions in existing law that require at least four other states to enact a similar measure before the statute can go into effect.  All three efforts have broad support in their respective legislatures.  In the meantime, ConAgra Foods, Campbell Soup, General Mills and Kellogg have announced they will begin labeling GMO ingredient food throughout the country.  Some advocates of labeling do so because they support the consumer’s right to know.  Others however, are using the current labeling chaos to gain a marketing advantage.  Those who are concerned about future world hunger fear the labeling controversy may stifle innovation necessary to feed the hungry populations in developing countries.  Congress will scramble to reach some kind of compromise over the next several months but July is fast approaching.

Bus Stop Farmers Markets

Following in the footsteps of food trucks, those mobile fast food stands parked along city streets at noon, mobile farm stands are beginning to show up in so-called “food deserts”.  These low-income neighborhoods have plenty of quickie marts and liquor stores but lack full service grocery stores with fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods.  These mobile markets show up at bus stops and transit stations in low-income neighborhoods with fresh goods typically at discounted prices.

Land Issues

Farmers May Lose 600,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The Supreme Court has allowed the EPA to proceed with its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan for the entire 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.  As a result, the EPA estimates 600,000 acres of cropland in the Bay watershed will need to come out of production.  Land use decisions are typically the prerogative of state and local governments.  However, the TMDL plan allows the federal bureaucracy to overrule these local decisions.  With this ruling, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for EPA to apply the Bay TMDL plan to other major watersheds, including the Mississippi River watershed.

Health Issues

Opioid Use Epidemic

Rural communities are experiencing fast-growing problems of opioid and heroin abuse at higher rates than urban communities.  Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will lead a federal interagency task force charged with helping rural towns and organizations meet this challenge head-on.  Over the next several months, Vilsack will travel to meet with local leadership to better understand how his task force can further support their efforts.  The National Grange has notified the White House Rural Council of its willingness to help however it can.

Medical Treatment Challenges

  • National Grange cosigned a letter to Medicare Payment Advisory Commission Chairman Crossman urging the Commission to reject proposals change patient out-of-pocket costs and increase copays for low-income beneficiaries under the Medicare prescription drug benefit

(Part D)

  • National Grange cosigned a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell  expressing concern with a proposed Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model that would cut Part B payments  in several geographic regions that could adversely affect the care and treatment of patients with cancer, muscular degeneration, hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • National Grange cosigned a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Slavitt highlighting the cuts to Medicare Advantage from 2014 through 2016 and expressing concerns about the consequences of further cuts in 2017. The comprehensive disease management program and care coordination services provided through Medicare Advantage help millions of seniors with disabilities manage their often complex and myriad health problems.

National Grange cosigned a letter to the bipartisan cosponsors in the House and Senate to support of their Small Business Healthcare Relief Act (S.1697 & H.R.2911).  The bills would allow small businesses to provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to employees with health insurance.  These HRAs would permit businesses to offer pre-tax dollars to insured employees to help pay premiums and other out-of-pocket medical costs.

Why is Rural America Being Left Behind in Lifeline Reform?

Major portions of rural America have no access to broadband.  Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) can’t access what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines as broadband, but that level is three times higher – a whopping 53% — when it comes to rural America.  And what about those parts of rural America with broadband access?  According to the 2015 State of the Internet Report, the average connection speed in many rural areas is slower than those in Estonia, Uruguay, and Thailand.

That’s why the millions of us who live in rural America can muster no more than two cheers for the Lifeline Reform plan recently drafted by the FCC that shifts the focus of the federal Lifeline program to broadband.  It’s a good move that makes sense in the long term, but it doesn’t have to be done with such haste that it severs the wireless Lifeline now helping millions of low-income residents in rural America.

The problem is that the FCC timetable for shifting Lifeline from a wireless focus to “broadband only” is out of sync with the reality of the availability of adequate broadband in rural America.  The FCC wants to start a phase out of wireless Lifeline almost immediately and then hang up on it altogether in 2019.   After that, Lifeline would only subsidize broadband and landline phone service.

That’s the wrong timetable for rural America.  The FCC’s own data show that as many as 22 million rural Americans lack access to connections to broadband at download speeds of 25 megabits per second (mbps).  The Commission also has reported that one in five rural Americans lacks access at the even slower speeds of 4 mbps.  The access gap is even worse for people living on Native American tribal lands, where the lack of access surges to 63 percent.

While there is much to admire in the FCC’s plan for a $9.25-a-month subsidy focused over time on broadband, the truth is that it probably won’t result in one new mile of broadband cabling in rural America.  All signs are that our communities of non-urban areas will lag for decades when it comes to access to essential broadband.  The FCC knows this and so the unfortunate appearance is that the Commission’s current Lifeline reform plan is a calculated slight to rural concerns.

In less than 45 months the current wireless Lifeline service will vanish.  For rural Americans who have no way to use a broadband subsidy, the demise of Lifeline by 2019 will mean that they are effectively cut out of the program.  Their only sin:  living in rural America.

To make matters even worse for those living in rural America, the FCC wants to impose minimum standards on wireless Lifeline that almost certainly would force a co-pay arrangement for subscribers.  This would make participation in the program burdensome, if not completely unaffordable, for many low-income rural dwellers.    Many of the poorest people with the least access to help live in rural America, these are not consumers who will be able to continue using Lifeline if they have to pony up cash that they just don’t have.

By phasing out wireless Lifeline and offering only a broadband program they can’t access, rural Americans will not be helped by Lifeline reform.  Instead, will we rural Americans become the first and perhaps largest group of disconnected victims of the reforms? I ask the FCC:  What good is Lifeline reform in rural America if broadband is not available now and you are killing wireless service?

 

By Betsy Huber, President
The National Grange

March Message from the National President

In this message, National Grange President, Betsy Huber discusses the Spring and her love of gardening. She also touches on the importance of Grange Month coming up in April. Town hall meetings and open house events are some of the things our Grange Members look forward to planning during Grange Month. If you are already a Grange member, we hope that you are planning an excellent month of festivities! If you are not currently a member, we hope that you will take some time to visit your local Grange.

As always, we hope you like and subscribe to these videos. It’s our way of sharing important information with all of you.

Close caption for this and other videos can be displayed by clicking on the closed caption icon in the bottom of the video window. (see below)

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The National Grange Cert Decision Announcement

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to review the ruling in the long-running design patent infringement case between Apple and smartphone rival Samsung. This important case is about correcting an outdated interpretation of how damages are awarded for design patents in infringement lawsuits.

The lower court’s ruling elevates design patents and ornamental features of a product over utility patents and a product’s functionality. Additionally, the court-awarded damages for infringement could be equal to the total profits earned from the alleged infringing product. These massive damages from infringement could result in total profits – an incentive for troll-like litigation over design patents. For these reasons and their implications on the rural and agriculture industry, the National Grange is thankful the Supreme Court is reviewing this decision.

Unwarranted design patent damage awards make rural consumers particularly susceptible to trolling threats from design-patent abusers. The risks are also much higher for family-owned rural small businesses because jobs, opportunities and progress for these often marginalized communities all rely on their success.

The National Grange applauds the Supreme Court for its review of the case due to the serious implications for rural connectivity under the existing ruling. The ruling, as it stands, makes it tougher for rural entrepreneurs to prosper because it makes access more expensive.

Smartphones, like the ones at issue in this case, provide access to educational resources, health information and direct business-to-customer markets for goods or service as well as employment opportunities. Mobile technology is revolutionizing the manner in which farmers conduct business, allowing farmers to tap into sources on agricultural information, utilize cutting-edge production technologies, undertake entrepreneurial endeavors, reach new customers and run their businesses in ways previously thought impossible.

Rural America and the agricultural industry depend on connectivity even more than most, because our geographical location infrequently overlaps with the initial deployment and availability of new technologies, products, and services. However, mobile connectivity offers and equalizing force which enables rural America to keep pace with the dynamic technology economy of today and tomorrow.

The Supreme Court took the first step in correcting the lower court’s illogical interpretation of these awards. We are hopeful that they will reverse the ruling and offer clarity so that the next design patent infringement case will not pose such a serious threat to rural connectivity, mobile access, and America’s farmers.

National Grange Youth Ambassador Celebrates Ag Day, Visits Congressional Leaders

WASHINGTON – National Ag Day is typically celebrated on the first day of spring to increase awareness to the values of agriculture. On March 15, National Grange Youth Ambassador Shannon Ruso of New Baltimore, New York traveled to Washington to join other youth for Ag Day activities and meet with her congressional leaders.

“The Grange was established to advance the values of rural America,” Ruso said. “It was great to see so many youth from several different organizations at our nation’s capital to celebrate farmers and the food they provide us.”

Shannon is a member of Ravena Grange #1457 in New York State.

Ruso along with National Grange Master Betsy Huber, Legislative Director Burton Eller and Youth Development Director Charlene Shupp Espenshade participated in the Ag Day Mix and Mingle Luncheon at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 15.

“The Grange is very proud of our youth and we are happy to give them this opportunity to see government in action and make their voices heard in our nation’s Capitol,” Huber said. “Advocacy and public service have been an important part of the Grange throughout its 150 year history.  We encourage our younger members to continue that legacy.

Senator Cory Gardner, (R- CO), spoke at the event challenging the youth in the room to “carry the big rocks” for agriculture by sharing the story of what farmers provide rural America and their suburban and urban counterparts. He said people need a farmer every day, even if they do not think about it. He said more needs to be done to make it more affordable for young farmers to get started in the industry.

These events honor National Agriculture Day and mark a nationwide effort to tell the story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. A number of producers, agricultural associations, corporations, students and government organizations involved in agriculture were at the capitol to meet their legislators. This year’s Ag Day theme was Agriculture: Stewards of a Healthy Planet.

Ruso, Eller and Espenshade met with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Representative Chris Collins (R-27, NY), Representative Glenn Thompson (R-5, PA), and the agriculture, environment and healthcare staffs in the offices of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY) and Representative Chris Gibson (R-19,NY).

Ruso discussed several key Grange legislative priorities with these members of Congress and their staffs and promoted the work of the National Grange Youth Department. Ruso, Eller and Espenshade were able to sit in on part of the Senate floor debate regarding the food labeling laws for biotechnology.

Before heading to Capitol Hill, Ruso visited the National Grange Headquarters building to meet with Huber and the Washington, DC staff.

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April is Grange Month

2016 Grange Month FB Banner Main v3pdf

April 2016 is going to be a great month to celebrate the Grange. I hope that each member is getting excited about how we can share our great organization with people in our community.

You might hold an open house or a reception for your community; invite friends and acquaintances to a breakfast, tea or dinner. Perhaps your Grange will carry out a special project or recognize outstanding achievement to commemorate Grange month.

Our organization is nearing 150 years of sharing American Values while never forgetting our Hometown Roots. This year would be a wonderful opportunity to begin looking forward to this historic milestone by reflecting on the ways our Order has been a positive impact in your community.

Across our nation, Grange hands are joined for education, social connection, business that benefits our members, legislative advocacy, and service to others. We believe each must learn and grow as individuals, become connected with others through the Grange in order to provide a true grassroots voice to aid our legislators and serve others through cooperation and caring.

Download your 2016 Grange Month Material Now!!

Grange Month President’s Letter
Grange Month Proclamation
Grange Month Poster (letter size)
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Grange Month Press Release
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Additional Press Release Information
Digest of Laws 2016
Distinguished Grange Packet
Quilt Item Contest Rules and Submission Form
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Building Kit 1.9
Membership Recruitment Letter
Membership Recruitment Contest Form
Youth Brochure
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Policy Updates and News February 2016

The President’s Budget

President Obama released his proposed FY’17 government budget to Congress February 9. Its progressive vision of governance could influence the upcoming presidential election and define much of the President’s legacy. Among popular bipartisan items in the president’s budget plan are $1 billion investments in cancer research, prescription drug abuse and heroin-use treatment. The spending blueprint also proposes a $19 billion investment in federal cybersecurity infrastructure. USDA’s agriculture research and education budget would receive additional funding for research grants and in-house research on safe water, climate change response, soil health, food safety and qualityf, pollinator health, antimicrobial resistance, foreign animal diseases, and avian influenza. One of the most unpopular proposals is a $10.25 tax per barrel of oil to fund a slew of clean air initiatives. Agriculture has given a frigid reception to the president’s proposal to cut more than $1 billion from crop insurance in fiscal 2017. Also unpopular among growers is the proposal to initiate user fees for regulatory implementation of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization (FSMA). Missing from the administration’s budget are attempts to rein in spending for Social Security and Medicare, the main drivers of the nation’s debt. Instead, the budget addresses the debt problem by increasing the revenue/tax side of the balance sheet.

Now it’s Congress’ turn at the budget process, adopting the sections it likes striking the sections it doesn’t like and substituting its own priorities. The twelve Senate and House appropriations committees will attempt to finish their work in the coming months before another omnibus spending bill becomes necessary for FY’17 on October 1.

Congress’ Unfinished Business

Congress heads into election year with some major unfinished business affecting food and agriculture. School nutrition programs and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission need to be reauthorized. Several states are poised to require labeling on foods containing GMO ingredients unless Congress preempts with a federal standard. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact will be ready for action by Congress. Opponents of the administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule will continue attempts to keep the regulation from taking effect. Here’s where several major issues stand:

  • GMO Labeling: The easiest legislative fix to preempt state labeling laws was to insert language in the must-pass omnibus spending bill back in December. That didn’t happen because of objections in the Senate. Last fall there appeared to be growing support for a voluntary certified GMO-free label which protects the consumer’s right to know. However opposition grew from within the organic food industry. Apparently organic producers feared a GMO-free label would compete with food labeled organic. The food industry, led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, proposes a new SmartLabel smartphone disclosure system to provide consumers the information they want about food ingredients including the presence of GMOs and allergens, nutrition information as well as environmental, religious and sustainability factors. Six Senators including Blumenthal and Murphy of Connecticut, Sanders and Leahy of Vermont, Markey of Massachusetts and Tester of Montana are questioning the feasibility of SmartLabel at this time since a third of consumers do not have smartphones. Secretary Vilsack on behalf of the administration has tried to broker a compromise but to no avail. The GMO labeling issue continues to be divisive. The National Grange policy states that, until scientific studies indicate real health risks exist, the Grange should oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified products. The Grange does support the voluntary labeling of foods that are verified and certified free of GMO ingredients.
  • Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): Trade is traditionally a bipartisan issue with supporters and detractors on both sides of the aisle. President Obama and congressional leaders want the landmark, twelve-nation trade deal passed this year. But TPP is already embroiled in election year politics both in Congress and along the presidential primaries trail. Candidates Clinton, Sanders, Trump and Cruz oppose TPP. Congress will not act on TPP before elections which would leave it for the post-election lame duck session of Congress or punt it to the next president for 2017. The National Grange advocates for the creation of fair trade agreements that will be beneficial and flexible while protecting jobs and the American dream.
  • Waters of the Unite States (WOTUS): Implementation of the WOTUS rule has been temporally suspended by court rulings to allow legal challenges by more than two dozen states to proceed. In December, 2015, Congress added language to the Omnibus spending bill that no FY’16 funds shall be used to implement WOTUS, effectively holding the rule at bay until October, 2016. In January, 2016, Congress passed a resolution (House 255-166, Senate 53-44) to redefine jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act that would kill the WOTUS rule; the President vetoed the resolution. The Senate fell eight votes short of overriding the veto. WOTUS will continue to be a hot topic in Congress.

Regulatory Issues to Watch in 2016

  • WOTUS: Becoming known as the mother of all regulatory issues, the Waters of the United States rule is the top priority of most farm, ranch and landowner groups. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has stayed implementation nationwide and will decide whether challenge to the rule should be litigated in the appeals court or district courts. Vast areas of agricultural land, idle lands and forest lands appear to be subject additional regulation if the rule is allowed to stand. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are not backing down and have said they look forward to vigorously defending the merits of WOTUS. As litigation moves forward this year, stay tuned for news from the court. The National Grange opposes any mandate that suggests all watersheds are to meet the same water quality standard and finds no basis for the federal government extending its WOTUS regulatory arm across all waters at every location in the country.
  • Clean Power Plan: The most sweeping anti-coal move in history would impose carbon dioxide emissions limits for the first time on existing power plants. Known as the Clean Power Plan, the rule is designed to cut carbon pollution 32 percent over 2005 levels by 2030 even though EPA acknowledges harmful air pollution has been reduced by 70 percent since 1970. It is designed to accelerate the shift away from coal as the chief source of electricity generation toward natural gas, wind and solar power. A large number of older facilities would be forced to close thus greatly reducing electric generation capacity for the immediate future until alternative, cost effective generation facilities become available. The Supreme Court has ordered a halt to enforcement of the Clean Power Rule until utilities, miners and more than two dozen state legal challenges plus 30 additional suits are resolved. The D.C. Circuit Court is slated to review the merits of the many lawsuits challenging the plan on June 2. The National Grange policy supports all forms of viable energy development including traditional fossil fuels, wind, solar, hydroelectric and biofuels that deliver power to citizens as cheaply as possible in a reliable manner.
  • Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): This law was signed I 2011 but the regulations are still trickling in. The latest one published is the final Product Safety Rule which requires water used to grow produce or water that might come into contact with produce be tested for microbial contamination.
  • Unmanned Aerial Aircraft (Drones): Drones are a boon for precision agriculture, allowing producers to monitor crop health and areas of fields that need more or less inputs such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace minerals. Drones are becoming options to replace horses, ATVs and pickups for surveillance of wildlife, cattle herds, fences, trespass and boundaries. As drone use expands, air space safety becomes a priority. Support is growing for technology that will make drones detectable by ag aviators, requirements that drones be painted colors that make them readily distinguishable from their background and certification for drone operators. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to propose a set of regulations later this year. Because of privacy and air safety concerns, the National Grange will play a major role as policy is created to regulate the use of drones in agriculture.

Farm Policy Recommendations for Presidential Candidates

The nonpartisan agricultural think tank Agree has some policy recommendations for the country’s presidential candidates. Agree co-chair and former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said these recommendations are needed to help farmers and ranchers overcome challenges with market volatility, drought, floods, disease, food safety and a reliable labor supply. The next president should:

  • Strongly support research and innovation for food and agriculture
  • Ensure a stable workforce through immigration reform
  • Empower the next generation of entrants into agriculture
  • Strengthen risk management policies and practices
  • Bolster conservation and working landscapes
  • Reduce healthcare risks through food and nutrition
  • Respond to changing consumer demands through local food
  • Address global hunger and malnutrition through international development

 

Struggles Ahead for Rural Areas

The USDA has released its 2015 “Rural America at a Glance” annual report. According to the report, many rural areas continue to experience population loss, higher poverty rates and lower educational attainment. Some of the highlights are:

  • Rural employment grew one percent from 2014; urban employment rose two percent
  • The proportion of rural adults with four-year degrees is thirteen percent lower than urban areas
  • Population declined in two out of three rural counties
  • Rural poverty remains high. Economic recovery after the 2008 recession has been stagnant for most rural residents

More About Food

Food is a necessity of life we Americans take for granted. Food is plentiful, nutritious, convenient and cheap here compared to most of the world. We have a wide variety of foods, preparation styles and ingredient choices. Food choices can be deemed healthy, unhealthy or a combination. Here are some updates concerning our food.

  • Dietary Guidelines: The 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the latest edition of federal dietary advice, was released in January. Reaction from most quarters has been largely positive. It recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables then the other half with whole grains and protein like lean meat, while topping it all off with low or non-fat dairy products.
  • Natural Foods: According to Consumer Reports, 62% of U.S. shoppers regularly bought foods with “natural” label and 42% mistakenly believe the presence of the word “natural” on a food means it’s been verified, checked or certified in some way. In reality, there are no federal requirements or guidelines for food to be labeled as “natural” as there are for organic and other certified food labels. The FDA does not restrict the use of “natural” on a food label so consumers may have been trusting in a label that means nothing at all. FDA has announced it is accepting comments for a more defined standard of what can be labeled “natural”. The Consumers Union will soon release its own recommendations for labeling rules.
  • A Menu for 2050: Feeding the world’s growing population is a front-of-mind topic around the world. Science, technology and ingenuity will certainly enhance agriculture producers’ abilities to meet that challenge. Here are a few possible foods of the future which may help feed the masses, 1) Functional foods optimized to meet the nutritional profiles of children, the elderly, women and men, 2) Insects efficiently convert feedstocks to protein and there are 1,900 edible insect species on earth, 3) Algae could be the superfood of the future, offering more vitamins, minerals, protein and iron than fruits or vegetables; it’s cheap to produce and grows abundantly, 4) Lab grown in-vitro meat is a reality but more research is needed to make it textured, tastier and cheaper.