Rural

It’s a common story: Ambitious kids move from small towns to larger cities, never to look back. When their parents die, the family wealth that’s been built over generations through farming, ranching or agriculture-related businesses often follows the kids, draining the economic lifeblood from those rural communities.

The largest generational transfer of wealth in modern times is expected to happen in the next 10 years and rural foundations in states like Iowa and Nebraska are working hard to retain at least a bit of those hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Ali Zifan / wikipedia, creative commons

Election night 2016 put Iowa's divisions on display. The state was a sea of red dotted with blue islands representing Iowa's largest metro areas. Iowans talk a lot about the rural urban divide. But voting in the presidential election allowed those divisions to be mapped. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbes talks with experts about the economic, political, and social differences between Iowa's rural and urban areas.

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

$750,000 for payroll. $500,000 for a bond payment. $1.25 million total. One August day in 2013, the hospital’s CEO Kerry Noble had to face facts: The money just wasn’t there. It took an emergency bailout from a local bank to keep their doors open. For now.

Sidney, Nebraska, has prospered while many rural cities have struggled. For decades, the city has been home to Cabela’s, a major outdoor retail chain.

As Cabela’s completes a deal in which it will be bought by a rival, however, the future of Sidney’s economic engine is in doubt. As in other rural cities that have faced the loss or closure of major industry, the question is how the community will move on and grow in the 21st Century.

Nan Palmereo/flickr

The Iowa Utilities Board today issued an order deregulating landline phone service quality in Iowa.  

That means that local telephone exchanges will no longer be required to meet customer service and quality standards.   

With the growing use of cellphones, deregulating landlines has become more common across the country.  The Iowa order cites the widespread availability of effective competition for local service, including mobile wireless and cable.  

Indian Helath Service

At least 35 people at the podiatry clinic of the Indian Health Service hospital in Winnebago, Neb., have possibly been exposed to Hepatitis and HIV. An instrument at the IHS clinic, which is near Sioux City, may not have been properly sterilized between patients. 

IHS is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides healthcare to American Indians and Native Alaskans. The Winnebago clinic serves members from the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska who live in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. 

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

A nationally recognized gynecologist testified Tuesday at Polk County District Court. Dr. Dan Grossman of California is an expert witness in a trial that questions the constitutionality of new abortion restrictions.

Iowa’s new law requires a woman to have an ultrasound three days before an abortion. Grossman told the court, in some cases, he believes this requirement is "cruel" and "unacceptable."

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

Amy Mayer/IPR

As Highway 30 enters Denison, a city of 8,000, the national fast food chains stand next to Mexican groceries and restaurants. In this small city near the Nebraska border, waves of immigrants have been arriving since at least the 1980s.

 

In small, rural, diverse towns like this one, religious institutions can play an important role. Often, they provide needed social services. Many are a small slice of home. And they can serve as some of the most prominent points of connection between the different communities in town.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR

The Diocese of Sioux City is rolling out changes that will close or consolidate many Catholic churches in northwest Iowa as part of its Ministry 2025 plan.

A shortage of priests and declining participation in weekly Mass fueled the Diocese to find more efficient ways to serve Catholic communities. Father Paul Kelly celebrates Mass in English and Spanish at St. Rose of Lima in Denison, a small western Iowa city that may soon welcome more parishioners from nearby communities.

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

USDA

In her address after being sworn in Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds highlighted the importance of high-speed internet being available in all parts of the state, regardless of a community's size and location. 

"A connected community means better jobs, safer communities, better education and a better quality of life," said the governor. "And it really is the expectation of our young people." 

A significant amount of money is likely needed to make this goal a reality in rural parts of the state.

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

At the public library in the rural Morgan County town of Brush, Colorado, Marissa Velazquez welcomes her students to class. It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and today marks the halfway point in Velazquez’s class, a ten-week crash course on American history, civics and English.

Everyone in it has the same goal: become an American citizen. In two hours, Velazquez runs through voting rights, the legislative process and some grammar tips.

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Rural voters overwhelmingly chose President Donald Trump in the presidential election. But when it comes to the central campaign promise to get tough on trade, rural voters are not necessarily in sync with the administration.

Flickr / wabisabi2015

Every school day at 7:30 am, fifth-grader Ava Perrett catches the first of two bright yellow buses that drive her to the Greene County Intermediate School in Grand Junction.

Due to a 2014 consolidation, the Greene County Community School District is the state’s eighth largest in geographic size. It spans 388 square miles. So it’s a good thing Ava says she usually doesn’t mind riding the bus.

“But sometimes it takes a while,” she says. “When we’re switching buses it gets really cold out when we’re waiting for the buses.”

Plan To Shakeup USDA Worries Rural Advocates

May 12, 2017

Advocates for rural issues are up in arms after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a plan that changes the position of a lieutenant that had been focused on rural issues in order to create one focused on trade.

USDA is limited in its number of undersecretaries. Creating a position focused on trade, which the agriculture industry maintains is vital to its economic growth, may force Perdue to scrap a current mission area.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The bell signals the start of second period. A trio of young women take seats in English class, their attention quickly drifting outside the walls of the high school in Fort Morgan, Colorado, eager to talk about what they’re working toward.

“I want to become an FBI [agent],” says freshman Mariam Mohammed. “It’s my dream.”

kids share delmar books
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As Iowa’s metropolitan areas continue to grow, many small towns across the state are losing people and businesses.

In eastern Iowa, a town of about 500 people is making a more creative attempt at reversing that trend by using an oral history project to stimulate development. Delmar has paired up its youngest and oldest residents to explore how the community’s past and shared values may help shape its future.

In downtown Delmar, the storefronts are empty, paint is peeling off the buildings, and a quiet park has replaced the train tracks that used to dominate the town.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Jeanne Crumly’s introduction to the Keystone XL oil pipeline came seven years ago. That’s when she learned the 36-inch pipe could someday carry up to 830,000 barrels of heavy crude through her land each day on its way from Hardisty, Alberta, to a pipeline hub at Steele City, Nebraska.

“The pipeline would be about 400 yards north of my house, running through a creek out here where cattle water and where we draw irrigation water,” Crumly says.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A doctor handed Melissa Morris her first opioid prescription when she was 20 years-old. She had a cesarean section to deliver her daughter, and to relieve post-surgical pain her doctor sent her home with Percocet. On an empty stomach, she took one pill and laid down on her bed.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god. Is this legal? How can this feel so good?’” Morris recalls.

Five new industrial sites have been certified through the Iowa Certified Site Program, a program that its creators hope will bring economic growth to rural Iowa. These new sites, located in Forest City, Clinton, Grinnell, Waterloo and Osage, are now “project-ready” and claim to be "relatively risk-free” for new developments such as data centers or food manufacturers. 

"Economic development has become more and more competitive, and more and more sophisticated," says Gov. Terry Branstad. "Companies are not willing to wait, they want to be able to move quickly." 

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

file: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The Great Recession decimated the American economy more than eight years ago. And while many of America's cities have crawled back to modest economic prosperity, the rural economy has stagnated, displaying few bright spots in employment and poverty rates.

In short: rural parts of the country are still struggling.

Flickr / Roger W

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding a rural LGBT summit Thursday at Drake University.

Ashlee Davis is the director of the event, which is the 15th the USDA has held in the rural and southern U.S.. Davis says some there’s a widely-held myth that LGBT people don’t live in rural American, but data from the most recent U.S. Census shows that's not the case.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Consumer advocates who are worried about elderly Iowans in particular pleaded with the Iowa Utilities Board Tuesday not to ease up on phone companies who provide landline service, especially in rural Iowa.  

The Board is considering rules to give companies more time to restore service when there’s been a phone outage. 

Anthony Carroll with the AARP says thousands of Iowans without cellphones still rely on landlines for everyday needs, including dialing 9-1-1.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

Rural towns need psychologists, social workers and substance abuse counselors, but there is a chronic shortage. The U.S. needs about 2,700 more clinicians to catch up to demand, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Outside of metropolitan areas there just aren't enough providers to go around.

Liesl Eathington, Iowa State University

You probably can’t go out for sushi nearby, and it might take an hour to get to a discount store but for some the benefits of living in rural Iowa more than outweigh those inconveniences. At the same time more and more Iowans are drawn to city life. According to Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, the numbers prove that true.  

“Just this decade, 71 of Iowa’s 99 counties have posted 2015 populations smaller than they were in 2010. That’s a trend that’s continued for at least two decades now,” he says.

Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission says more than $700,000 in grants will be awarded to 16 healthcare professionals who work in rural Iowa. The grants will be matched by the communities where the recipients are employed.

Danielle Weber is a physical therapist who lives and works in Jefferson, the seat of Greene County. With more than $80,000 in debt she says the grant is like winning the lottery.

She explains that while her tuition at Des Moines University was “not cheap,” salaries in rural communities tend to skew lower.

keokuk, iowa
WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

Conventional wisdom says city-living is expensive. But a new report from an Iowa public policy group finds that's not always the case.

The Iowa Policy Project's 2016 "Cost of Living in Iowa" report finds that even though Iowa cities have higher rents and childcare costs, health insurance and long commutes eat up bigger portions of rural household budgets.

Flickr / much0

Teachers, parents, and students embraced and some cried moments after the Iowa Board of Education voted unanimously to de-accredit and close the Farragut Community School District. This is only the third time the state education board has dissolved a school district. 

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