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Rural

COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower in rural counties than in urban counties, according to a new

Iowa's Rural Areas Face Additional Challenges for Vaccine Rollout

Feb 5, 2021

Iowa opened the next phase for vaccine distribution during the first week of February. Phase 1B includes frontline essential workers as well as Iowans 65 and older.

The surge in online shopping is helping the U.S. Postal Service stay afloat financially, but the influx of packages is straining rural letter carriers across the country. 

An increase in online orders is projected to help the postal service run until September 2021. Ronnie Stutts, the president of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, says while the increase in mail is good, they are facing a worker shortage because a large percentage rural carriers are still on leave. 

As workplaces and schools go online to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many people are relying on a strong internet connection. But in some states, less than 50% of rural households have access to broadband, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission. 

Rural America Is Feeling The Pandemic Pain

Oct 6, 2020

Problems that existed in Illinois small towns and across rural America have been made worse by the coronavirus outbreak, said the director of the Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.

Lexington, Nebraska, is just one of the many rural communities that has long dealt with food insecurity, but the global pandemic both intensified need in the town of 11,000 residents and presented new challenges in getting people food. 

Philip Kelly says there’s always something that needs to be fixed in Yale, Oklahoma. 

AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA FILE PHOTO

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on changes that it says will make getting loans for major projects easier for rural communities.

Families often count on their local school districts to provide two meals a day for their kids. But with school buildings closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, getting meals to students can be a challenge, especially in rural areas.

Rural families also often find it difficult to drive many miles to see if the grocery store has restocked needed items.

It’s hard for rural communities in Illinois to attract or keep the doctors, teachers, or even grocery stores which together make everyday life possible in a small town.

Rich Egger

Bushnell will be the testing ground for a new program designed to look at economic and health issues in rural communities and how local residents perceive those issues.

Illinois plans on spending $400 million over the next several years to improve internet access to farms and small towns.

But first, the state needs to know who has a reliable internet connection and who doesn’t.

The federal government tracks where high-speed internet is available. But the mapping has been criticized for overstating access, particularly in rural areas. Around 30 percent of residents living in rural Illinois lack internet access at speeds of 25 mbps and above, according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission.

On a side street near the Des Moines Water Works, a tall fence surrounds three garden plots. Geese fly overhead while trucks drive past a sign between the road and the fence. It says: “Industrial Development Land For Sale, Contact City of Des Moines.”

Until recently, the city rented the land for growing vegetables but now it’s been rezoned and put up for sale.

Julie Catey of Broadwell loves shopping at the Dollar Tree store in neighboring Lincoln.

Illinois continues to lose residents, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau released in April. Overall, around 45,000 fewer people lived in the state in 2018 than 2017, a loss of about 0.4%.

About half of that decline is in the Chicago metropolitan region, particularly in Cook County, which saw a 0.5% decrease. The recent numbers show growth in the Chicago region has slowed, but long-term trends find that downstate is shrinking at a much faster and sustained pace.

“If we take that longer view, we’re actually seeing population growth centered up around Chicago,” said Cynthia Buckley, a professor of sociology and social demographer at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

 

The Quad Cities are divided by the Mississippi River along the Illinois-Iowa border. They all took a big hit during the 1980’s farm crisis, and were left with abandoned warehouses and other buildings.

Slow internet service can slow a business down, adding up to lost time and money. And often the problem is worse in rural areas.

That’s one reason John Sullivan, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said improving internet access is a top priority for him.

“If there isn’t adequate access to high-speed internet, it really drags and holds back the possibility for jobs and opportunities in those areas,” he said.

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

Two small towns in rural Illinois recently lost their Walmart stores -- more than three decades after the retail giant came in and pushed out mom and pop shops. Now, the communities have lost convenience as well as major property and sales tax revenue. Some see it as an opportunity to revitalize main street, while others are not so optimistic.

For the first time in seven years, rural America’s population is growing.

The annual U.S. Department of Agriculture report “Rural America at a Glance” found the increase — only 0.08 percent — mainly in scenic rural areas like the Rocky Mountains, more densely populated rural areas and rural communities that are within about an hour’s drive of a major city. Essentially, places where people still have access to urban amenities or can go hiking, biking, fishing or skiing.

On a busy football Saturday, fans on both sides of the Iowa-Nebraska line streamed into a tiny grocery store to pick up hamburger, soda and chips.

Store manager Nick Johnson, a third-generation store owner in far southwest Iowa, has long had a front-row seat to the local economy. Times have been tough since the recession, with lots of people losing their manufacturing jobs, though he says that it looks like some of those are coming back. 

And similar to the rest of the country, farm income is down thanks to low crop prices

Farm towns in Illinois have been shrinking for decades, and the trend doesn’t show signs of reversing.

By 2025, rural counties with populations of less than 10,000 people will see 7.4 percent of their residents leave, while counties with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 will lose 5.4 percent. That’s according to projections from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Shortage Of Rural Veterinarians Puts Farmers, Food Supply At Risk

Jun 21, 2018

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colorado. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they’re lifted onto a hydraulic table.  

At The Law Shop in Van Meter, Iowa, attorney Amy Skogerson untied a piece of blue yarn from around a bunch of craft sticks.

Each stick had a word or short phrase stamped on it, and she read from them as she placed them on her desk: “negotiate, court representation, research law, draft documents.”

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

The statistics are clear: Rural America is deeply impacted by the opioid crisis, especially farmers and farm workers. What’s not so easy is figuring out what to do about it, three national agricultural leaders said Sunday, though they all said the real onus is on local communities.

Rich Egger

Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) said he is trying to educate his urban counterparts about rural issues ahead of a vote on the next Farm Bill.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado — one would think it would be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.  But that's not always the case.

File photo/Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the rounds this week to reiterate their commitment to rural communities and farmers and ranchers, the federal agency that President Abraham Lincoln established still lacks top appointments.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

For years, Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) has been trying to get legislation passed that gives local governments in rural Illinois a better shot at disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Now the 13th District Congressman said he might finally have his chance. 

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