Weekly Column

Personification of the challenges of rural health access

Rural America has once again taken its place in the national health care debate. Across America, analysis shows that rural counties would have shouldered much of the cost shift of the proposed and now dead American Health Care Act.

On average, people in rural counties tend to be older, have lower incomes and have less choice when it comes to providers and insurers.

Energy efficiency can help rural families save money

Families below the poverty line spend 8 percent of their income on electricity, a much larger proportion than higher income families, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

And in rural areas, 17.7 percent of families live below the poverty line, as noted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Energy efficiency provides an affordable way to decrease power consumption and electric bills. Developing local renewable energy generation also keeps hard-earned dollars in the state and brings new economic development to rural communities.

What if the workers owned it?

The owners of a mid-sized manufacturing plant in a nearby small town were ready to retire, but no one in the next generation was interested in taking over.

The plant was sold to an out-of-state buyer with no local ties. The business was profitable, but the new owners chose to merge operations and close the local plant.

The story is familiar in small towns. Is there an alternative? I think so. Worker-owned co-ops and employee stock ownership plans could offer another path forward for these businesses.

USDA comment period extended for three Farmer Fair Practice Rules

There is still time to comment on three “Farmer Fair Practice Rules” introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December. The comment period has been extended to March 24.

The interim and proposed rules level the playing field and would create much needed protections for poultry and livestock producers. Provisions include:

Allowing producers to protect their rights without having to prove that a processor’s actions hurt the entire livestock industry.

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